Anyone with an office job can attest to that achy, crampy, stir-crazy feeling of being stuck sitting at your desk all day. What you may not know is that sitting all day can also be deadly, even if you work out regularly, according to the results of a forthcoming study conducted by Cornell University.
The study of 93,000 women found that those who are sedentary the longest during waking hours die earlier than those who are more active. In fact, women who logged 11 hours of sitting time had a 12 percent increase in premature mortality from causes such as cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cancer by 13, 27, and 21 percent, respectively.
Sitting wreaks havoc on your health because, when your body stops moving, that causes a decline in metabolic activity and chips away muscle mass, increases insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), and, over time, can lead to obesity. Not to mention, it wrecks your posture.
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“Even if you don’t sit for 11 straight hours, brief periods of inactivity can add up,” lead study author Rebecca Seguin, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University, tells Yahoo Shine. “Let’s say you sit at a desk for eight hours — bathroom and lunch breaks included — then sit on the subway for 20 minutes, sit to eat dinner, and lie on the couch for a few hours. That can easily amount to 11 hours of sedentary time.”
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The study also found that the effects of constant sitting weren’t that different for super-active people. Even those who hit the gym for an hour (even two!) a day faced almost the same odds of premature death as those who didn’t work out.
And while the research was conducted on post-menopausal women, Seguin says the results are applicable to women of all ages, especially since muscle mass begins to decrease at age 35.
Of course, there’s not much you can do about a job that requires you to talk on the phone, type away at your keyboard, or stay hunched over spreadsheets all day, but making small adjustments in your day can add up to big changes.
For starters, request a stand-up desk at work, specifically one that comes with a higher chair, so you can sit periodically and be at eye level with your computer. If your office doesn’t allow it, you could always make your own — stack books on your desk and rest your computer on top.
Or, indulge in more breaks, a notion people tend to resist in our 24/7 connected world. But simply taking five can actually boost productivity. One recent study published in the journal Cognition found that people who took two brief breaks within a 50-minute period were more focused and stimulated by their tasks at hand. “One way to stop feeling guilty about taking breaks is to stop thinking of them as ‘breaks’ think of them as being and as crucial as any other task,” suggests Seguin.
Another idea: If you have a private office or a semi-private cube (or even if you don’t!), try pacing, marching in place, or — if you use a wireless headset — lifting dumbbells during phone calls. And use a bathroom on a different floor of the office and take the stairs to get there. “It sounds like a pain, but how much longer will it take you — two extra minutes?” says Seguin.
It’s worth it!