Sitting is one of the most frequent activities that we do in our day-to-day lives. In fact, we live in a world that surrounds us with a sea of chairs just tempting us to sit in, from the adjustable, swivel, chairs we sit in at work, to the recliner chairs we sit in at home, and everything in between.
We were not designed to be idle, and it can be bad for our health – a lot worse than you may have already thought, actually. Feel good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin are released through exercise, so a lack of exercise equates to a lack of dopamine and serotonin.
But I have a desk job!
Don’t panic, though, being inactive in a sedentary job is not a death sentence. So, all the office workers can now do that sigh of relief. But, if we do not do anything active for the long-term, then it can be. Whether the effects of a sedentary lifestyle are felt in 10 years or 50, the quality of your life is in the balance. We need to all get up and use the body we were given.
The risks of sitting
Calling them "risks" may sound pretty ominous, but sitting for too long really does carry risks. Sedentary lifestyle effects can be pretty nasty, and have been linked to suffering of serious health problems such as heart problems, physiological issues such as a bad back, and even mental health issues, staying still for too long really isn’t recommended.
Sitting for too long has even been dubbed “the new smoking”, which really puts these harmful effects into perspective.
Why should we stay active?
We all know how important it is to stay active to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but we thought it would be good to go into some detail around these risks. There are some proven correlations between the below health conditions and prolonged sitting:
Sitting or lying down for too long can lead to muscle deterioration. Staying active keeps our muscles strong and fit, so we require exercise and regular movement to maintain our muscle mass.
Sitting down for too long, or too often, can lead to some pretty bad posture problems – especially from an ill-fitting chair. Ensuring your chair is equipped with adequate back support is key.
So, do you see what we mean when we say the risks are serious? Don’t worry, here are 3 ways that teach us how to be more active:
Do something every hour. Make this into a ritual.
Get up from your chair and move. You can connect it to something you already do regularly, like going to the bathroom or making a trip to the water cooler, or maybe making a snack. There are plenty of microbreak strategies that we find really helpful.
One of our favourite microbreak techniques is The 52-17 Rule, but you can adjust this to work with your personal goals. This rule requires you to work, focussed for 52 minutes at a time, followed by a 17-minute break.
That may sound really long, and crazy specific, but we promise, 52 minutes is a great time for you to get in the zone – and once you’re in the zone, this time will fly by. Then, you’re met with your 17 minute microbreak, where you can get up and move around – that even gives you enough time to fit in a quick HIIT workout or two, if you fancy.
Perhaps the most famous microbreak strategy, the Pomodoro technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo. It involves using a timer to track your work and breaks. A Pomodoro lasts 25 minutes, which was carefully devised to ensure you do not procrastinate due to the urgency of the task. Following this 25 minute break, you can take a 5 minute breather. Every 4 Pomodoro’s, you get a longer 30 minute break.
This technique is great as the longer break gives you a substantial amount of time to get your body moving. Go on a walk, a quick cycle or even a dance around your living room – the choice is yours!
One of our favourite ways to manage these breaks is through time-keeping apps such as Forest. The idea behind the app is simple and effective – when you need to focus, plant a tree in your forest. Depending on your level of experience with the app, this tree could be a simple Fir tree, to a beautiful Japanese blossom tree.
Set a timer and stay focused until your time is up – a break in concentration means your tree will die! The great thing about this concept is that Forest can also be added as an extension to your web browser. When your tree is planted, get up, grab that cup of tea and have a 5 minute breather outside. You earned it.
Increase non exercise activity
Despite what your guilt may be telling you - you don’t need to go to the gym to be active. Increase your movement throughout the day – whether big or small, these all make a difference in the long run.
Evaluate your own situation and find ways that you can increase your daily activity. You could try things like parking further away from work, taking the stairs and wearing comfortable shoes so you can walk or stand more, and these are all great options.
Stand up whenever you can
Make your existing tasks more mobile. For example, If you take lots of calls, don't sit at your desk; use a headset or speakerphone and pace around or stand for every call.
If you’re looking to make a real change, there are also some pretty nifty standing desks, with some even having built in timers. These help you change your working position often so that you don’t do damage to your posture or sit for extended periods of time. Check out these by Yo-Yo Desk. It’s pretty cool.
The benefits of staying active are endless, so it’s important that we stay mindful throughout the day. For many of us, sitting at a desk from 9-5, with a commute both sides and a pretty comfortable sofa at home means that we are sat down for a huge majority of the day.
So it’s time to make conscious choices around staying active. A great way to get yourself motivated to move and exercise is The Fit Protein. This protein blend is packed with proteins and minerals to boost your energy and get you going, whilst supporting repair and recovery on your fitness journey. So, if you’ve been sat down for way too long, remember – microbreak!