5-Minute Health Tip: Fight Sitting Disease with Standing Breaks

There’s a new disease on the rise, and chances are you have it! It spawns all the top death threats—heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes, as well as other illnesses symptomatic of metabolic syndrome. Coined “sitting disease” by the medical community, it’s a very real condition that afflicts the majority of hard-working folks across the globe. How do you catch sitting disease?

Take a look at your average workday. If your job doesn’t entail physical exertion (and a whopping 80% of jobs do not!) you may just be spending 13 hours seated on your bum. First, factor in the eight or nine hours spent at work. According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, the average worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at her desk! Now, tack on your commute and the hours spent decompressing in front of the television, and it’s easy to see how sitting becomes second nature.

Fortunately, there’s a vaccine for sitting disease. Get your blood pumping again with 5-minute standing breaks every hour! Don’t want to interrupt your work flow? No problem! Who says you can’t work standing up!

standing at deskThe Dangers of Sitting

For a little standing motivation, let’s first digest the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Australia’s Sax Institute estimated that people who sat for at least 11 hours a day have a 40% higher chance of dying within 3 years, as opposed to people who sat for only 4 hours a day.
  • Another study showed that men who sit for more than six hours are 54% more likely to have a heart attack (women were only slightly lower at 40%).
  • If you sit for more than 23 hours a week (that’s 3 hours a day on average!) you are 64% more likely to die from a heart attack!

Active Couch Potato Syndrome

Perhaps you work at a desk for six hours a day but practice a devoted fitness regimen that has you exercising on average for an hour a day. Unfortunately, an hour of exercise a day won’t keep sitting disease away. Studies have shown that even when you reach recommended daily exercise requirements, a mainly sedentary lifestyle still adversely influences your metabolic health.

When you sit at a desk or on the couch for a long stretch, your body stops producing the chemicals it needs to digest sugars and fats. Consequently, circulation deteriorates. Sitting at your desk for a long time also exacerbates back pain. Your muscles take a break and allow your chair to support your upper body. This leads to compression within the chest and abdominal cavities, as well as slouching in the shoulders and spines.

Get on Your Feet!

When you work standing up for 5 minutes every hour you reap the following benefits:

  • Relieves back pain
  • Strengthens back and core muscles
  • Burns more calories
  • Enhances alertness and cognitive function
  • Increases focus
  • Boosts circulation
  • Balances blood sugar levels
  • Helps combat fatigue
  • Activates metabolism

Who knows? After several weeks of 5-minute standing breaks, you may find you prefer to work standing up. If so, it might be wise to invest in a standing work station, ergonomically designed and height adjustable for any desk.