There’s almost nothing as rewarding as sitting down and putting up your feet after a long day, but be careful.
Sitting too much dramatically increases the risk of developing a number of diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American adult spends only 7 hours sleeping each day, but up to 15 hours sitting. That means that the vast majority of our lives are spent completely sedentary. According to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, excessive sitting is more deadly than smoking, cancer, and HIV.
While you sit, your metabolism slows down and makes you more likely to develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This isn't a vague or slight increased risk either; every two hours spent sitting is associated with a 14% increased risk of developing chronic disease, and those who sit more than four hours each day are particularly at risk. Additionally, excessive sitting can also lead to developing dangerous blood clots.
Unfortunately, even those who are conventionally considered to be active are not immune from the pitfalls associated with excessive sitting.
If you train for a marathon in the morning and spend the rest of the day sitting in a chair, all of that running will not be able to overcome the additional risk of disease.
Rather than increasing the amount of time spent at the gym and sitting for the rest of the day, it is recommended that physical activity be spread out to bust up the monotony of sitting still for hours on end.
So what is the solution, particularly for someone who has a desk job?
Standing desks are a great start because they at least get the person upright. However, even standing still all day does not meet the needs of a human body that is craving movement. There are ellipticals, treadmills, bikes, and other devices meant for increasing activity while at a desk.
Rather than staying seated for a meeting, turn it into a walking meeting. Not only does this reduce the total amount of time spent sitting, but The Scientific American reports that it has the added bonus of boosting mental performance too, which could even make the meeting more productive.
Dr. David Alter of Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences recommends getting up every 30 minutes and doing physical activity for three minutes.
This could be something simple like taking a walk around the office, or you could go the fun route and dance by your desk for a few minutes.
(Your co-workers may or may not be into this idea. There's only one way to find out!)
The easiest way to reduce the amount of sitting you do each day is to be aware of how much time you actually spend seated. Dr. Alter recommends noting the amount of time spent sitting in a day, and work at reducing that number a little bit at a time.
It might not be reasonable to go from sitting 10 hours a day to 1 or 2 overnight, but aiming to reduce daily sitting time by 30 minutes each week is a good place to start in order to improve the physical quality of your life.