You may want to stand up while reading this.

We all know the terrible toll that smoking takes on individuals’ health and our nation’s health-care system. But many medical experts now argue that the sedentary lifestyle that has taken over our population will be the next big medical challenge we will face.

People who spend the majority of their day seated are impacting their long-term health in a very negative way. This description applies to just about every student or worker (whether at a traditional office or working from home) and to anyone who spends “downtime” in front of a screen or on a couch. Studies indicate that when we are not frequently and regularly using major muscle groups (like backs and legs), our metabolisms slow down and cholesterol and blood sugar levels go up. These result in increased risk for weight gain and developing heart disease or diabetes.

The American Cancer Society has linked a sedentary lifestyle to serious health conditions, including an increased risk of death.

  • Inactivity resulted in a 94% higher risk of death
  • Women sitting more than 6 hours per day are 37% more likely to die earlier than those sitting fewer than 3 hours per day and have a greater risk of developing cancer
  • Men who sat over 6 hours per day were 48% more likely to die 

But all hope is not lost! Researchers have found that primarily sedentary workers who regularly take a break from sitting (even with something as small as getting up and stretching or taking a few steps) have healthier body mass indexes (BMIs) and lower triglycerides than people who don’t take breaks. Find a way to get up and get moving at regular intervals throughout the day.

Try these suggestions to help you get moving at work:

  • Every time you cross something off your to-do list, take a stretching break.
  • Instead of sitting down for one-on-one meetings, suggest a walking meeting around the block or around the building 
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park far away from your office building and from the restaurants you go to for lunch

Another option is to consider a standing-height desk or a “sit-to-stand” adjustable desk. “Adjustable-height desks have become very popular in the past few years and their popularity continues to grow as the negative health effects of sedentary lifestyles become more well known.” says Mike Hunter of Workspace Solutions in Fort Wayne. “Sit-to-stand desks have impressive health benefits including lowering your risk of heart disease and back pain and other harmful effects of sitting.”

Studies show that people who stand while working move around more; that means:

  • Burning more calories
  • Lowering levels of triglycerides and fats
  • Processing glucose more quickly
  • Feeling more alert and in a better mood!

Researchers who support the working-while-standing approach say that the constant, yet imperceptible, muscle activity that occurs while standing is better for our bodies even more so than bouts of exercise that occur only between long periods of being sedentary. Another plus to standing-height desks is that studies show that people who stand while working are more productive.

Being more active at home

After a long day, the easy thing to do is to go home, sit on the sofa, and put your feet up. However, after sitting all day on the job, coming home in the evening and sitting can compound negative effects on your health. Instead, try to get some activity into your after work hours as well. Some suggestion include:

  • join a gym
  • talk your dog for a walk or walk with your neighbors
  • spend some time picking up the house
  • stand up or do light exercise while watching TV

Talk to your doctor, of course, before making any drastic changes to activity levels. Dr. Busch has devoted his career to helping people live healthier, pain-free lives. Through Busch Chiropractic’s “patient-centered” approach to care, we can help you learn about all of the ways to address your pain issues, heal your body, and live and work without pain.