We all know that sitting still for long periods of time can expand our waistlines - but it turns out that it might be hurting your health in other ways too.
Two studies published recently have suggested that increased periods of sedentary behaviour, or sitting time, may lead to an increased risk of developing a chronic health condition. Increased sedentary time can also directly impact on heart health, and blood sugar regulation.
Sedentary behaviours are defined as an 'immobile state of the body' resulting in low energy use, and are characterised by activities such as sitting or lying down, and watching television.
The first study mentioned above was published in Diabetologia, and was conducted in the UK on a group of 878 participants at risk of diabetes. This study found that there was an unfavourable association between longer periods of sedentary time, and higher levels of blood glucose, as well as higher levels of triglycerides and lower levels of HDL-cholesterol.
This study also found that taking regular breaks from sitting, along with a general increase in physical activity and periods of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was helpful for reducing body fat levels (but unfortunately they found that there was no additional benefit for heart health and metabolic health).
Another study, which was carried out in Australia, was recently published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. This study was conducted on 63, 048 Australian men aged 45-68, and found that there was a link between longer periods of sitting time, and an increased risk of developing blood sugar regulation problems, and overall chronic disease.
This study found that this increased risk was seen even in those who exercise regularly.
"We encourage all Australians to be active for 30 minutes a day - and congratulate those who are - but what we do in the other 23? hours is still vital," said Dr Robert Grenfell, National Cardiovascular Health Director at the Heart Foundation.
For many people it wouldn't be unusual to drive to work, sit at a desk for 8 hours, then drive home and sit down for dinner, and finish off their day by relaxing in front of the television. When you add it up - that's a lot of sitting time!
The good news is that the amount of time you spend sitting is called a 'modifiable lifestyle behaviour'- which means it's something you can change.
There are lots of different ways to stay active during the day - even if you spend most of your day in an office.
The Heart Foundation has suggested the following tips to help reduce your sitting time at work:
- Walk to a colleague's desk instead of phoning or emailing
- Have standing or walking meetings
- Stand at the back of the room during presentations
Here are some other ideas:
- Set a timer or appointment for yourself every hour -when the reminder on your computer or phone goes off get up from your desk, stretch and walk around for a minute or two.
- Drink more water. Fill a 500 ml or 1L bottle to sit on your desk and drink from during the day. Not only will you have to get up to refill it - you'll also need to go to the bathroom more often.
- Remember that little changes can make a big difference. Keep moving, and stay healthy!