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Don't Be a Sitting Duck For Poor Health

Get on Up

For years we have heard the refrain to 'get active'.  An increasing trend of progressively more sedentary lifestyles in not only adults, but children as well, is very concerning.  A recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggested that sitting for long stretches of time is not only detrimental to your health but can actually shorten your life!  

The risks of a sedentary lifestyle are well known. They include poor cardiovascular health, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.  Unfortunately, the medical community is witnessing more of these health issues in much younger patients.  Sitting in front of the TV is no longer the only concern.  Think about your 'normal' day.  For many of us we climb into our cars (or SUV) and sit through a sometimes lengthy drive, then we sit behind a desk for the majority of our day, sit in our cars again to get home, sit down to dinner, and probably relax while sitting to read, surf the Internet, play video games or watch television.  Sadly, even if you are doing the recommended 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, you will still have a higher risk of mortality if too many hours are spent sitting!  Global studies show, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day.  That is an AVERAGE – it is estimated that some people sit up to 15 hours a day.

Let's start 2016 on the right foot.  First, calculate your daily sitting time and then try to find ways to cut it in half.  Here are 16 helpful suggestions.

1.  Get a pedometer or one of the newer wearable fitness trackers or smart watches.  You will be surprised by how little you actually move each day.  By tracking your daily steps you are getting instant feedback on your activity progress.  Stay motivated by starting some healthy challenges with family, friends or coworkers.  See who can take the most steps during the day. See who has the highest number each month. To make it a “challenge” the winner gets to eat at their favorite restaurant, paid for by everyone else!

2.  If you work at a desk, most of your day is spent sitting.  Consider switching to a standing desk, or one that can adjust to sitting and standing positions.  These desks can be pricey but they are gaining in popularity and can be found almost anywhere, even IKEA.  Standing all day is no better as it can compress the spine and lead to lower back and cardiovascular problems.  (The heart has to work against gravity for blood to flow up from your toes.)  A healthy balance is the key.

3.  Walk around the office and stretch every now and then.  Take short breaks every hour or so and move your body.  Standing for just one or two minutes every hour can reduce the negative effects of sitting all day.  When you are trying to meet a deadline, it's difficult to remember so try setting a timer on your computer.

4.  If meeting with a coworker, suggest a 'walking meeting'.  Walk around the office or, if the weather is nice, around the block.  The fresh air and increased blood flow can help stimulate your brainstorming.  

5.  Talk to your boss about re-organizing the layout of your office.  Rather than having everything within easy reach, change things up so that you have to stand to reach oft-used files, the telephone, or your printer.

6.  Rather than sending inter-office emails, if the recipient is within walking distance get up, walk and talk.

7.  Spend half your lunch hour taking a walk. Remember that most of us are shut in our homes and offices and cars and trains most of the time, and rarely do we get the chance to go outside. And often even when you go outside, you are talking on your cell phones or texting. Instead, take the time to go outside and really observe what is around you, take a deep breath of fresh air and enjoy your free time away from all the electronics.

8.  Drink more water.  Most of us do not drink enough clean water during the day.  It is not only healthier, but going to the water cooler and using the restroom more often will break up sitting time.

9.  When you do have to use the restroom, choose the one furthest from your office.  

10.  Use headsets or the speaker phone during teleconferences so you can stand and move around.

11.  Leave your car at home and take public transport so you walk to and from stops/stations.

12.  At home, get up and change the channel instead of using the remote. If you really want to do something amazing for your health that only takes about 20 minutes go for a quick walk around the neighbourhood instead of heading to your couch! It will improve your digestion, burns calories and can help you lose weight.

13.  Set your cell phone on a table instead of in your pocket, so you must get up to answer it.  When you are on the phone, walk around (or at least stand) while you talk or text.

14.  Carry in fewer groceries at a time.  Rather than loading up and usually dropping something because you are overloaded, make an extra trip or two.

15.  If most of your day is spent driving make sure you take a break every hour.

16.  Get off the couch and walk around during TV commercial breaks.

Take your first steps toward a healthier you.  Monitor your sitting time, set achievable goals and find opportunities to incorporate more physical activity -- and less time sitting -- into your daily life.  Every small change can make a big difference!  Have a Happier, Healthier and Positive 2016.