It’s enough to google ‘sitting’ and in just a couple of milliseconds you’ll get millions of results: ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ or ‘Sitting is killing you’. For a while, I considered this information coming from various sources to be plain and to lack value. O.K., I know. You have to move, drink water and so on. But how bad is it if you don’t do it? After all, everyone sits on a chair, in the car; many drink alcohol, some smoke, eat gluten, sugar, and dairy (meat is not the number one public enemy anymore) and seem to have a normal life.
Research proved sitting is a factor that aggravates a series of health problems, is responsible for a generalized lack of vitality and, yes, a reduced life expectancy.
At one point, all this information that accumulated turned into an instrument to produce the real change. It was one day when I got home from work and looked at the gauges that showed I’d spent two hours and 20 minutes in the car, sitting. And those two hours weren’t an exception. The same results confirmed in the next days. So around two hours in the car, another six to seven hours of sitting at my desk, one or two of sitting in coffee shops and restaurants. Overall: around 10 hours of daily sitting. It’s shocking when you realize that sitting goes against the way the human body is supposed to function, standing and walking. So why do we still ask ourselves why we end up visiting doctors with chronic illness, why we’re always tired and lack enthusiasm while we carry on with our lives on autopilot, waiting for those weekends and holiday?
I recently visited Athens. I strolled for two days straight around seven hours a day. Overall, I think I walked for about 20 kilometers. Although I practice yoga and Pilates two or three times a week, my muscles got sore. It’s then when I realized that that was the natural status of things. That we are supposed to move with moderation, but continuously, preferably outside. And we are our own barometer, according to how we feel in the evening when our day is ending: do we lack energy? Are we irascible after a whole day of sitting in front of a computer or are we tired, but relaxed and invigorated after a day of moving around?
How do we fight sitting? Not by going to the gym or practicing yoga and other sports a couple of times a week. Numerous studies carried on groups of people who go and don’t go to the gym, but spend a similar amount of hours sitting showed that the repercussions of sitting are the same for both groups. Thus solving this problem should be about taking long, pleasant walks that will give you a boost of energy, anywhere you can, regularly and frequently.
Because this study really scared me, I got myself together and made a long, nice, and beautiful life a priority. Here are some alternatives to sitting at the office:
- Work standing: You can buy a tall adjustable desk, built to combat the negative effects of sitting. If you don’t get tired easily, go for the IKEA version; if you are already trained in this, try the treadmill desk.
- Organize your meetings standing or taking walks: Instead of passively getting involved in those endless meetings at the office, meet those clients and colleagues in an active way. Make it short, alert, and efficient.
- Adopt the ‘Let’s move’ mantra anytime you can: Go talk directly to your colleague instead of writing that e-mail. Leave those efficiency ideas aside and go for a walk. Take water in small glasses in order to force yourself to walk several times to the kitchen and back. Replace your desk chair with a medicine ball at least temporarily. Take 10-minute breaks even though work seems to never end.