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Is Sitting Killing You? The Hazards of a Sedentary Day

February 29, 2016 by Rajeev Sharma

There's growing evidence that sitting for extended periods is bad for you. We'll give you the bad news first:

  • Sitting is the 2nd leading cause of death in the US and the 4th leading cause of death around the world. Studies show that extended periods of sitting can lead to an early death.
  • Sitting can lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Sitting can risk injury to muscles, joints, and even your internal organs.

Fret not - here's the good news: You can reduce the amount of time you spend sitting by trying the following tips:

Unplug and play.

Dr. I-Min Lee, Harvard Medical School professor, says: "Any [physical] activity is good.... Some is better than none, and more is better than less." While the ideal is to get in 30 minutes of exercise every day, getting in 10 minutes of activity here and there throughout your day helps.

With that in mind, a great way to squeeze in small workouts into your day is table tennis. A ping pong match takes just 10 minutes. Three matches a day helps you meet your 30-minute quota. Because table tennis is a low-impact sport, your chance for injury is reduced. You'll get your heart rate up effortlessly and without feeling winded, as with other more strenuous exercises.

Bonus: We have proof that play boosts productivity.

Get up and walk.

Make sure to get up and walk for 1-3 minutes every half hour. Set a reminder to yourself on your phone or calendar tool. If that doesn't do the trick, consider downloading an app on your computer that will force you out of your system for timed breaks. Remember, it's for your health! Also, your eyes need a break from staring at your computer screen.

Stand during phone calls.

Use phone calls as an opportunity to stand up. Get a wireless headset or take calls from your cell phone, if necessary. Try to pace around as you talk. (Of course, be mindful of not disturbing your peers if they are close by.) Standing during calls may actually help your call be more effective, as you assume a more powerful position. As Amy Cuddy reveals in her TED Talk, "power poses" impact how others perceive you.

Take fresh air breaks.

Even if you're not a smoker, there's nothing in the corporate rulebook that states you can't go outside for a walk. Getting outdoors is good for your health and mental well-being. Soak in the sun to boost your vitamin D intake. If the weather is not conducive for walks, try walking around in open areas of your office or in the hallway.

Bonus: Getting more sunlight and increasing your vitamin D can beat the winter blues.

Get a standing or treadmill desk.

If office space permits, consider purchasing a standing desk - better yet, a treadmill desk! Standing burns more calories than sitting, so it's yet again another small way to get in more exercise into your day. A quick search on Amazon.com and other sites shows that standing desks come in all sizes and varieties. Some models simply modify traditional desks by propping up your monitor and keyboard to the appropriate heights for standing.

TL;DR* - Yes, sitting is bad for your health. Unplugging from your desk as often as possible and taking the time to exercise (e.g. playing ping pong with your colleague for 10 minutes) can mitigate some of the health risks.

*too long, didn't read

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