In the 5 minutes it takes to read this article I kindly ask you to stand up. Simply by standing up you will expend one Calorie. By standing for 5 minutes you will expend around 10 Calories more than you would sitting down. Believe it or not, just by standing up you will reduce the chances of developing a host of chronic diseases including: heart disease; cancer; and metabolic disease (inc. Type 2 Diabetes). Other benefits include improved mood and vigor together with reduced joint pain. If weight management is your target, prolonged sitting results in a key enzyme which burns fat being suppressed leading to raised HDL cholesterol, reduced metabolism and increased retention of fat. Just by standing up you can switch the enzyme back on and boost your fat burning potential. So, I hope you will agree, asking you to stand up doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now, but why is sitting a problem?
Whilst the headlines generally focus on the 40% of the population who fail to reach the recommended physical activity guidelines for health, it is the emergence of a new chronic condition that is fast becoming the key culprit in the inactivity epidemic: Sitting Disease. Increasingly sedentary jobs and leisure activities combined with the exponential growth of motorised transport has led to the evolution of the ‘Box Culture’: we travel to work in our box (car); we work in a box, sitting in front of our box (computer); we travel home in our box; and sit on the sofa in our box (home) watching the box! This ‘Box Culture’ results in the average UK working adult sitting down for 9-10 hours per day accounting for over 60% of their waking day (this rises to up to 75% for office workers!). Worryingly, the older we get, the less active we become spending more than 10 hours each day sitting. Of course, becoming more active is often easier said than done. Invariably, we link activity with tight fitting Lycra, profuse sweating and expensive gym membership however; there is no need to run a marathon to benefit from moving more, more often. Substituting one hour of sitting with walking each day has been linked to a 13% reduction in all-cause mortality. Of note, just standing for one hour results in a 5% reduction.
Given we spend so much time at work, increasing physical activity in the work place is a must. Recommendations suggest the initial target should be 2 hours per day of standing and light activity, increasing to 4 hours per day. This may seem a big ask however, there a range of simple interventions that you can adopt in the work place to increase your activity including: ‘Deskercise’ (exercise at your desk), standing-based work at regular intervals throughout the day (i.e. sit-stand desks); walking meetings; active lunches; using stairs rather than lifts; talking in person rather than by phone. All of these approaches increase your activity and as well as improve your health, improve your productivity.
Outside of work, there are a host of ways to boost your physical activity and reduce your sitting time. Simple approaches including: walking part of the way to work; parking at the far end of the car park; or taking public transport are all easy ways to increase your daily activity. Walking clubs before and after work are a great way to increase your activity and socialize at the same time.
Whatever your approach, the message is simple: stand more, sit less and be more active, more often.