By now, we all know that sitting is bad for us. A sedentary lifestyle, often led by 9-to-5 desk jobs, has major implications on weight, cardio, and metabolism, among other aspects of health.
But it’s even worse now that we know physical exercise is largely unable to negate the negative impact extended periods of sitting inflicts on our bodies (and mind!), reports James Hamblin in The Atlantic. Only a very long, very intense workout after sitting all day can hope to counteract the downsides of being stuck in a chair.
Not only is that highly unrealistic for most professionals, but it only brings them back to square one. It doesn’t make them healthier, necessarily—it merely diminishes the damage they did to themselves during a day in front of their computer.
Quoth The Atlantic:
The main conclusion is that vigorous physical activity (the more explicit, clinical term for “exercise”) doesn’t cancel out the negative impact of time spent being sedentary, which appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death) and diabetes, even among people who exercise regularly. Deborah Rohm Young, the director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, put it this way: “Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.”
The fact that standing desks aren’t commonplace in every office is disturbing. But standing desks alone do not solve all of the problems. Standing is better than sitting, sure—but if that’s all you’re doing, it’s still sort of a sedentary activity. Movement is key, even if it’s just a short walk every hour. Of course, this is a lot easier to think about and execute on when you’re already standing, so the desks do carry tangible benefits.
Standing, at least, keeps your muscles active and your metabolism revved, burning anywhere from 25 to 50 calories hourly versus sitting. That’s up to 400 extra calories burned daily for a typical office worker, or more than two pounds of fat per month based on a regular workweek.
Meanwhile, sitting remains “the new smoking.” Research confirms a sedentary lifestyle is correlated with higher incidences of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Sitting triggers all manner of serious, long-term impacts: bad posture by causing anterior pelvic tilt, poor hip mobility, and a slower metabolism. The list of detrimental effects on our minds and bodies from sitting all day is virtually endless.
If you are naturally an active person and you’re not stuck to a chair all day, as little as 20 minutes of higher intensity physical activity is all that’s required to stave off most applicable health problems. But if you do sit for most of the day, suddenly you need 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise to maintain that same level of health.
Get a standing desk if you can. If not, get up multiple times an hour—stretch, walk, take advantage of your office’s ping pong table. Your heart, waistline, and brain will thank you.