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There are countless studies and articles discussing the risks of sitting still for too many hours a day. Both the reported dangers and recommended solutions vary in intensity, from simple suggestions to move around every hour to dire warnings that if you sit for more than a few hours at a time your risk of death will dramatically increase. The reality is likely somewhere in the middle: sitting all day at work can be bad for your body, and appears to have an impact on your long-term health. But you don’t need to work at a standing desk all day or engage in a lengthy, vigorous exercise routine daily in order to mitigate these effects. Here are a few things you can do to help your body if sitting makes up a large percentage of your day.
Move around throughout the day
Getting up and walking around for a couple minutes every hour isn’t going to wipe out the effects of sitting around all day, but it will still help your body. A change of position and environment benefit both body and mind — if your brain is feeling foggy or you just aren’t able to concentrate very well, moving around a bit might be enough to help you get back on track.
Spend lunch (or another break) away from your desk
Depending on where you work and what your budget is, this will be harder for some people than others. Buying lunch is one way to get you moving and give you a change of scenery, but for many people this is too expensive to do every single day. Just leaving your desk and taking your lunch to the breakroom (if you have one) will make a difference, rather than staying at your desk to eat. Alternatively, eat at your desk but take a break to leave the office and walk around outside for a little while.
Pay attention to posture
There are a lot of different chairs (and chair-like objects) recommended to help with posture. All of these tend to have advantages and disadvantages, and any of them can have negative effects if you spend too much time in them. If you don’t have a standing desk or yoga ball, even an ergonomic office chair can help, as can simply noticing your sitting habits and consciously adjusting your posture.
Try standing (in moderation)
If you do have access to a standing desk, using it can improve your posture and provide other benefits, including reduced risk of health problems like heart disease. However, it is important not to overdo it: being on your feet for too long can damage circulation and joints, as well as increase lower back pain. Experts suggest a mix of sitting, standing, and walking. If you’re just starting to use the standing desk, gradually increase the time you spend standing over the course of several weeks.
Get moving outside of work
If you aren’t able to implement many of the above suggestions at work, or if you want to supplement them, get some exercise during another part of the day. Studies have found that one hour of physical activity a day can counteract the risks that come with sitting for 8 or more hours per day. If gyms or sports aren’t your thing, just going for a brisk walk is enough. And if time is a factor, try for two or three shorter periods of activity over the course of the day instead.
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