Research continues to show that sitting for too long can contribute to chronic disease, worsen your quality of life and even shorten your lifespan. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for premature death worldwide. Being sedentary can contribute to cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
It’s clear that most people need to significantly reduce their time spent sitting and replace it with a combination of standing and movement. But as with sitting, it’s probably wise to guard against too much standing as well. It’s all about gravity: your heart cannot pump blood very efficiently from your feet back up the length of your body while you’re standing still, which is why excessive standing may lead to swelling in your feet and lower legs, as well as increase your risk of varicose veins. Back pain, which is common with too much sitting, may also increase from too much standing.
Ultimately, a combination of the three — sitting, standing and movement — is best, changing your position regularly and often throughout the day and keeping active. A simple mantra to remember is ‘the best posture is the one you are not currently doing’
We’re in the midst of a “10,000 steps a day” movement, which has caught on in part due to wearable fitness devices that track your daily activity. Most of these devices come set with a default goal of 10,000 steps which is a number commonly associated with a basic or moderate level of fitness.
The notion of 10,000 steps daily for optimal health was first popularized in Japan after a study found that burning 2,000 calories a week via exercise lowers the risk of heart disease. This amounts to burning about 300 calories a day, which is achievable for most by taking 10,000 steps. There are now more than 300 peer-reviewed research studies looking into the health effects of taking 10,000 daily steps.
One study found 10,000 steps a day weren’t enough to improve body composition in postmenopausal women; in that study, 12,500 steps were recommended to improve health among this population.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the average person walks only between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day.
It sounds simple enough – get up and get moving. But the ‘busy’ trap can get in the way and before you know it you have spent 8 or more hours in a sedentary position. It is still possible to get enough steps in daily and train enough, but still suffer from being sedentary during the rest of day. It is essential to make simple changes throughout your day can that can add up to less time spent sitting and more time moving.
There is clear evidence linking being sedentary with weight gain. A simple take home message from this is – if are moving / walking a lot, it’s rather inconvenient for your body to carry excess weight.
A good weekly guide is:
–Minimize time spent sitting, ideally no more than 30 minutes in one go, and break up the day with as much movement as possible
-Resistance / Strength train 1-2 per week
– Include some aerobic / interval based work (Rowing Machine, VersaClimber). Brief high intensity workouts are beneficial and more time efficient.
-Avoid ‘chronic cardio’ – Marathon training, for example. This type of training is admirable but tough on the body, it can also contribute to a loss of lean muscle tissue. Perhaps better if you are already strong and have a low stress lifestyle.