How much you should (or shouldn't) sit at work

By now it’s likely that you’ve heard at least one news story telling you that “your chair is killing you” or that “sitting is the new smoking.” This has likely made you very concerned, very confused, or both.

Well, we’ve known for a long time that moving more is good for you.  Now we also know that the less you sit, or the more you break up your sitting time with light activity, the healthier you are likely to be. And, even if you are active but sit all day, a common occurrence for most office workers, you are at higher risk for developing a range of chronic diseases, most often related to poor heart health. So to keep you in tip-top health, you need to sit less AND move more.

Since sedentary behaviour is a relatively new field of study, Canadian sedentary behaviour guidelines for adults haven’t been developed yet.

However, there are guidelines for kids –> check ‘em out.

Some clever people over in the U.K. have just gone through an exercise to develop Workplace Sitting Guidelines. Dr. Travis Saunders, has covered these guidelines on his blog Obesity Panacea here.  If you want to read the whole paper, you can check it out here but here are some highlights:

Participate in light activities for at least 2 hours per day:

As you get used to this, work your way up to 4 hours per day of standing/light activity.

Two hours seems like a LOT, eh? Don’t worry. Start by adding in little bits of standing/light activity. You can try a standing meeting, or when you’re listening to a presentation, try standing at the back of the room. Will people think you’re weird if you’re standing? Probably, BUT this is a chance to share your new knowledge that standing, even for short periods, will put you on the road to being healthy,  including better heart and mental health. Say good-bye to anxiety!

Break up your sitting time:

The easiest way to do this, and what’s recommended in the guidelines, is getting a sit-stand workstation like this. But, realizing that these workstations are expensive, what else can you do? My favorite recommendation is to drink more water! Not only is it free, but drinking water is also really good for you, and your body will naturally force you to get up more often. There are also a ton of widgets and apps out there that can help to remind you to stand. But honestly, they can get a bit annoying so make sure to find one you can tolerate. In an ideal world, you’d get up for a 2-minute stroll every 20 minutes. But, just try and do it as often as you can. This is also true for weekend car-trips and movie marathons. J

Employers should promote health risks associated with sitting:

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Start by printing off copies of our Sitting Infographic, and share them at your office. If you’re not the one in charge of health-promotion policies at work, it may be tricky to implement any changes yourself, but you can do all your co-workers a favour and talk to your human resource department about the importance of sedentary time. If you are in charge, congrats! You now have the knowledge to make a big impact! Along with counselling your employees on proper physical activity, eating, sleeping, or smoking habits, remember to have a chat about reducing sedentary time.

It’s important to remember that reducing sedentary time is just one piece of the puzzle of a healthy active lifestyle. Yes, there are a lot of pieces! But, breaking up your sitting time can be a pretty easy way to get you closer to solving the puzzle.