In a new study, the American Cancer Society has concluded that people who sit for more than six hours a day are more likely to die early than those who don't. Worse, the damage doesn't seem to be undone by exercise.
Over the course of 14 years, researchers studied the habits of 123,216 people. The study revealed gender differences. Women who sit for more than six hours a day were nearly 40 percent more likely to die during that time frame than those who sat for less than 3 hours a day. Men were 20 percent more likely to die. The study appeared in The American Journal of Epidemiology.
Traditional health guidelines have focused on getting a minimum amount of physical activity during the course of a day, such as a half hour of walking, but this new study emphasizes the risks of inactivity. Protracted sitting slows the amount of fat that you burn when you finally do get up to exercise.
The 2012 research followed a study of the habits of 8,800 adults by Professor David Dunstan published two years ago in The Journal of the American Heart Association that also concluded that every additional hour spent in a chair each day correlated with an increased risk of death.
So what should an office worker do who is chained to a desk and telephone? It's important to adopt a new mindset, that during the day it's okay to stray away from your desk. It's an attitude that your boss might not appreciate, until you point out that he'll ultimately see fewer sick days from his staff.
- Get up from your chair and stretch frequently, at least once per hour, ideally two or three times an hour.
- Change your point of focus from your computer scren to the wall behind and blink frequently so your eyes don't dry.
- Walk messages across the office to chat face to face instead through instant messaging. Even walking for a minute or two will restore blood flow to your legs
- Get an adjustable desk, so you can work standing for a while. Former Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire was famous for using a standing desk. He lived until he was 90.
- Try to work in some moderate physical activity throughout the day, such as participating in a lunch time exercise class, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking far across the parking lot so that you walk more. During breaks, get away from your desk and move.
- If you're on the phone for hours a day, request a headset ideally one that is cordless, so you can walk and talk. You just need enough range to pace a bit. You'll sound more energetic and persuasive on the phone, good points to make to your boss if you're in sales. If the budget is tight, suggest headsets like this as employee incentives for jobs well done. They are tools that will enhance productivity.
- Some executives are now installing treadmills so that they are working their heart and lungs at moderate pace while they're still productive at their desks.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study this year that looked at the feasibility of employing a portable pedal exercise machine to reduce sedentary time in the workplace. Participants pedaled an average of 23 minutes a day, over the course of 4 weeks getting immediate computer feedback on the distance pedaled and calories burned. Dr Lucas J Carr, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina University reported that the device was a viable, healthful alternative to simply sitting in a chair for eight hours at a time.
Moving throughout the course of the day will not only help your longevity, it will increase the oxygen flow to your brain, help you cope with stress better and release endorphins so that you feel better.
Don't forget to aim for a more intense exercise session before or after work, whichever time is more convenient for you. Find something you enjoy whether it's bike riding, tennis, yoga, or dance then stick with it because it's fun. For more exercise guidelines watch our free exercise video here, included on the anti-aging DVD “Reverse Aging Now.”
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