Sitting all day at a desk or in front of the TV may not only leave you feeling achy and stiff—it could also cause lasting damage to your health. Obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease have all been associated with spending more time sitting down—even for people who meet the guidelines for physical activity recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, plus strengthening exercises).
Don’t let that statistic discourage you—and don’t feel like you need to do something drastic, like quit your job or beg your boss for a treadmill desk (though, if she’s offering…). You can counteract the negative effects from sitting too long simply by… standing. Yes, one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to offset the negative effects of sitting is to simply stand up. A recent article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests aiming to stand for five minutes out of every 30 minutes.
Standing 5 of every 30 minutes is almost an hour and a half out of an eight-hour workday—which seems like a lot until you realize that you don’t have to stop working. Try taking calls standing up, or stand during meetings. If you can convince your colleagues to stand (or better yet, to walk!) with you during meetings, you may find that those meetings become significantly shorter and more productive. Take advantage of time at the copier to stand while you print a report, or make a habit of drinking your coffee upright. When you associate a particular activity with standing, you’ll be more likely to remember to get out of your chair. And there’s no reason to plop down in your colleague’s spare chair while you’re working on a project together—you may even find that you’re more creative when you’re on your feet.
Turn the time you spend flipping through magazines in doctors’ waiting rooms into standing time, and you’ll feel less like you’re wasting time (and you can always read on your feet!). When you’re in transit, give your seat to someone else on the subway or bus—you’ll use even more muscles just by balancing on a moving vehicle. If you’re flying somewhere, counteract the time you’re required to keep your seatbelt fasted on board by standing up while waiting to board, and don’t be tempted to sink into a chair while waiting for your baggage. You might feel tired (or jetlagged), but sitting will just make you more lethargic.
Housework is a great way to fit in some lifestyle activity. Volunteer to cook dinner for 30 to 60 minutes of standing time, or maximize your TV time by standing up to iron and fold your laundry. Carrying the laundry basket of clean clothes back to the bedroom also counts toward your lifestyle activity for the day.