We know sitting too much isn’t good for us. But, how bad is it really? Many articles report the dangers of prolonged sitting and urge you to get outside and work out. But, why? What does sitting actually do to our bodies? Isn’t it natural for us to sit? The short answer: no. While chairs have existed for a few millennia, primarily, royalty used them. As time progressed, we’ve all become royalty, in a sense. Yet, we are still human beings, animals. This means we move in complex ways. Many billions of dollars in robotics cannot create a machine nearly as complex as our body. And unlike machines, we require constant mobility. Think of animals in the wild; it’s rare to see them stationary. And yet, despite us being animals, we now find squatting to be a difficult exercise, when it was once a resting position. Try sitting in a low squat for 10 minutes, do you feel rested?
Here are some hard facts about sitting. If you sit for more than:
- 20 minutes, your muscle tissue starts to break down, ever so slightly
- 30 minutes, blood flow to your brain begins to reduce
- 11 hours per day, your risk of death increases by 40%
- That’s right: 40%! And exercise doesn’t seem to reduce it.
Plus, sitting with a rounded posture will immediately reduce your airflow and breathing capacity. The average American office worker sits for 15 hours daily. Standing and walking reverse these effects, but they must do this regularly. Most of us don’t take breaks every 20 minutes to stand, stretch, and walk. We likely fall in the average of 12 hours of sitting, which is still excessive. These are the unfortunate facts. The solution? Sit less.
Before you throw your hands up in frustration, keep in mind, this is a mindset shift. Everyone tells us to do more, over and over. Work harder, read more, drink more water, and exercise more often. This is an unsustainable attitude. If we put together all of the things we have to do more of, we won’t have time to live—and living is important. We should try to change our work tasks and home habits to reduce sitting. You could take phone calls while standing, walk during meetings, or even have a standing table to watch TV. This is not a change that will happen instantly. Slow, consistent adaptation of our environment and habits will help keep us on track. If your brain is tired of thinking of all the extra you don’t have time for, try seeing how you can do less.
This won’t be easy. Our culture at work and home has slowly transitioned toward sedentary behavior. With binging TV and computer work growing in popularity, we’re further removed from our natural movement habits. The more we help others embrace these changes and promote healthy movement at work, the more likely we’ll succeed. And, what does success look like? A society and nation trending toward stronger and healthier people. As of right now, we’re failing.