It goes without saying that as an Explore contributor I love being outdoors, and adventuring around the mountains is always my preferred dose of exercise.
Sure, there are periods when I train indoors for various reasons: for endurance (gear-laden hikes) or to target muscle groups (core for skiing). That being said, I'd pick a heart-pounding hike over a sweaty spin class any day of the week.
Alicia Haque, Go Live Explore
Like a lot of people, getting myself to the gym can be an exercise in conjuring motivation. And now, I'm hearing that the time I spend at my desk is wreaking havoc on all that hard work. If you hike for health (like me), strengthen your rotator cuffs for paddling, or condition your back for climbing you'll probably be interested in sorting fact from fiction when it comes to the effects of sitting on our bodies. Here’s what you need to know.
Fact or Fiction:
Can sitting at your desk all day really be that bad for your health?
Well, considering that a sedentary lifestyle can have detrimental long-term effects on your health, not to mention cause back pain, fatigue, and increase your risk of disease, the simple answer is yes. In fact, studies show a direct correlation between sitting for extended periods of time and a higher risk of premature death. Yikes.
For desk dwellers who take pride in their fitness routine, sitting all day can actually undermine your workout time. To avoid this, find ways to get moving during the day to prevent muscle breakdown, protect your spine, and boost productivity in the office.
Is sitting the new smoking?
Really, give me the low down
Sitting for extended periods of time is a tough cycle to break, especially as so much of our lives involve being sedentary. A huge chunk of our day – driving to work, sitting at our desks, eating dinner at the table, sitting on the couch, watching TV, socializing with friends, and sleeping – is spent being inactive, which doesn’t do our bodies any favours. Our hips stiffen, shoulders round, knees weaken, and metabolism slows, which can have serious effects on our health as well as our waistline.
While it may seem bold to say that the effects of sitting all day can lead to outcomes comparable to smoking, there’s actually truth in that statement. Sitting is the new smoking, as many say, and evidence suggests that those who sit for more than eight hours a day have a 15% greater risk of early death compared to active people.
What effect does inactivity have on our health?
Our bodies weren’t designed to be sedentary. Uninterrupted sitting can elevate the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions that occur when our muscles switch to “dormant” mode due to inactivity. This can alter the way fats and sugars metabolise and increase our risk of developing diseases.
Indolence can also slow blood flow around the body and make you more prone to injuries. Those who are chained to their desk or couch for hours on end are more likely to suffer from neck and shoulder strains, muscle degeneration, and posture issues than those who are active throughout the day.
Ways to get on your feet
Sneaky little changes to implement
There is no Undo
Tim Gouw, Unsplash
Ultimately, a workout won’t “undo” the damage of sitting at your desk – that’s already been done. Just like a detox juice and morning run won’t make up for a night of heavy drinking, a little exercise after work won’t erase the damage caused by 8 hours of inactivity. But, there are a few simple things you can do to get on your feet throughout the day.
Get a Stand Up Desk
Stand up desks like the one pictured above (VARIDESK CubeCorner 48 available exclusively at Fitterfirst) are a great solution to the problem, designed to counter the joint-stiffening, mentally fatiguing and back-hunching effects of sitting in a chair all day. Stand up desks allow you to stand comfortably while working, plus they dramatically decrease back pain and disorders caused by poor posture.
Compared to standard sit down desks, they increase blood flow to the legs, put less strain on your joints, increase energy expenditure, aid weight loss and reduce muscle tightness. It's important to note that standing all day isn't the antidote; it's that sit-stand desks allow users to change between the two positions throughout the day.
Last, active desks produce clear mental benefits. They've been proven to boost our mood and reduce fatigue, which has a positive impact on productivity.
Program Activity Breaks
Another way to counteract the damage is to take it back to basics. Walking is a great starting point, and it’s something that we can all incorporate into our day. Set calendar alerts to walk around and stretch every 30 minutes to combat tightness and elongate your spine. Activity helps to get the blood flowing and it’s a proven method of improving focus throughout the day.
Commit to Breaking your Routine
Schedule your breaks; do so with your phone if you have to. Pick a time of day to observe a morning and mid-afternoon break.
Consider how you lunch and what you can do to make time for activity. That may mean brown-bagging it, changing your food intake (three main meals or six smaller ones?) and meal planning for convenience.
Ask yourself, is an alternate way to commute? Can you substitute driving for cycling?
Consider your workplace. Is it the norm for people to work through their lunch break? Does the set up of your office inhibit or foster inactivity?
Although it might take a while to establish a routine, inactivity should not be a way of life.
Are you consciously combating sitting?
Tweet us your best tips for staying active through the day
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