If you’ve raised or been around young children, you know that they are like energizer bunnies – they keep going, and going, and going. It’s almost impossible to get them to sit still for more than five minutes at a time. They want to bounce right back out of their seat so they can start running or playing or causing havoc again.
We lose that sense of constant momentum as we get older, slowing down year by year until eventually we find ourselves in the working world, where many of us are asked to spend 8-10 hours per day seated at a desk. Scientists characterize this process as “lapsing into a sedentary lifestyle.”
The older we get, the higher our risk of succumbing to a sedentary lifestyle. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, an alarming 67% of older adults report sitting for 8 or more hours per day, while only 28-34% of adults between 65 to 74 years of age are physically active.
Big deal, you might be thinking. Why does it matter how much time I spend sitting? I have a good job, I provide for my family, I exercise. Well, it is a big deal. In fact, most researchers and health professionals will tell you that sitting is the smoking of our generation. Sedentary lifestyles are to blame for a whole host of associated health problems.
The Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle
If you asked most people whether they think they lead a sedentary lifestyle, they would probably say no. The World Health Organization (WHO) would say otherwise. According to the WHO’s definition, people who get less than 90 minutes of physical activity per week qualify as leading a sedentary lifestyle. By that definition, around 60% of the world’s adult population can be said to be sedentary.
And when you lead a sedentary lifestyle, your health is at risk.
Sedentary lifestyles are associated with increased risk for a variety of interconnected health problems and chronic illness, including obesity, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes. If you don’t make an effort to change your sedentary lifestyle, you can expect to experience:
- Bone and muscle weakness – Use or lose it, as the saying goes. When you don’t use your muscles or bones, they will begin to lose strength and flexibility over time. In serious cases, this leads to osteoporosis and atrophy.
- Chronic fatigue – Many sedentary people blame fatigue for why they don’t move or exercise more often, but they have the causality backwards. Their sedentary lifestyle is not a product of their fatigue, it’s causing their fatigue.
- Obesity – Most people who are overweight or obese are also sedentary. It’s simple mathematics. If you don’t burn as many calories as you consume, you will gain weight. And this process will continue until you do something to change it.
- Metabolic syndrome – Metabolic syndrome is the name given to the various risk factors and disorders that doctors have identified as precursors to more serious chronic illness, such as Type II diabetes and heart disease.
- Cardiovascular disease – Linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome, sedentary lifestyles also increase risk for a a number of cardiovascular and circulatory problems. There are two forces at work against your heart with a sedentary lifestyle: lack of movement causing slower circulation, and cholesterol buildup in your veins and arteries. These two factors combined can lead to heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis, and other serious cardiovascular conditions.
How to Reverse a Sedentary Lifestyle
The good news is that adding even a little extra movement or exercise into your day can have a big impact. Take the stairs up to your apartment. Park at the back of the lot at the grocery store. Go on a walk during your lunch hour. These are all easy ways to add exercise into your day without changing your routine.
Many sedentary people are not sedentary by choice. Your job may demand that you spend the working day at your desk – in which case there’s not much you can do about that. You may not be able to change your job requirements, but you can change your working conditions.
Ask permission to swap your desk for a height-adjustable sit-stand desk, or to exchange your chair for an under desk bike. These swaps will allow you to move and even exercise without interrupting your work. You can pedal on an under desk bike while answering emails, and flow seamlessly from sitting and standing throughout the day to burn more calories, increase circulation, and boost productivity with a height-adjustable desk.
You want to turn around your sedentary lifestyle? We invite you to explore our range of ergonomic office equipment, designed to promote movement and improve health in the workplace.