Is Sitting Down Actually Killing You?

Remember a couple of years ago when the Sitting is Killing You infographic came out, and everyone ran out and bought exercise balls and standing desks and chucked their chairs? And then do you remember a couple of months later when everyone got over it, ditched their treadmill desks, and moved on to the next health trend? I do, too. Except I haven’t really forgotten about it. I, like many millennials, spend the wee hours of the late night scouring Wikipedia and WebMD, convincing myself I have some disease and what caused it. Most of which always leads back to the sedentary lifestyle of a desk job plus side desk jobs and little time for exercise. Well, you’ll be happy to hear that sitting is the new cancer! Not sure how that makes sense? Let me clarify that for you, and then maybe you’ll understand why that’s good news.

Overworked and tired young woman in front of computer

Is Sitting Killing You?

Yes and no. According to every study in the infographic, yes, it is. But, some new studies suggest that sitting may not kill you if you exercise enough to offset its effects. This is where my theory comes into play — sitting will be the new cancer. What does that mean, you ask?  Much like cancer, there will be a lot of studies on sitting.  And because most studies take a big chunk of time for definitive results, it’s likely we won’t know anything for a very long time.  As a result, I’m quite sure there will be plenty of studies between now and the next hundred years that go back and forth between sitting killing you and not — similar to how there are new studies every day about everything under the sun that may cause cancer.

So, What Should I Do?

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to wait for study results to determine what is or is not good for you.  For the most part, common sense can determine what some good courses of action could be to stay healthy when it comes to sitting and standing. But, in case you are also like me and have what I like to call Christmas Brain (similar to Pregnancy Brain, except the cause is the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season), here are some easy tips if you do sit all day long.

1.  Don’t ditch the standing desk. If you have one collecting dust, get back to using it. If you don’t, try requesting one at work, it never hurts to ask! If you frequently use the computer at home, try switching to a standing desk — IKEA has a decently-priced option, and Costco has some good options if recycled wood particle isn’t your thing. Their price points might shock you, but what’s a couple hundred dollars for your health?

2. Set an alarm.  I can’t get a standing desk at work because I sit embedded within another company. So, instead, I set an alarm to remind me to get up, stretch, and go for a walk. Not only is this good for the whole sitting/death thing, but it’s also good for my eyes to get a break from the computer and my brain to get a break from work (which I like to think makes me more productive). And, let’s face it, are any of us really stretching enough?

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3. Extra fries. Whoops, Freudian slip, I meant EXERCISE. Those new studies about sitting not killing you? They both say that an hour of exercise offsets your average day sitting at work. So exercise is literally keeping you healthy, as if there weren’t a bunch of other reasons you should be doing it too.  This is the perfect opportunity to visit any one of the gyms in the fitted. network.

4. Give your couch a rest.  If you binge-watch TV (if you don’t, you’re really missing out with all that waiting), take your iPad to the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. Watch one or two episodes while keeping a good pace — while different for everybody, it’s considered brisk if you can’t hold a conversation while doing it — and then reward yourself with one more episode in the sauna!

Don't sit like this!

5. Posture is principal.  None of us can avoid sitting. So when we do it, we just need to be mindful of the way we’re doing it. Try to avoid anything that will make you slump over or that is not ergonomic. You don’t have to buy anything fancy, just make sure you’re not uncomfortable:

  • Make sure your monitor is at eye level — you don’t want to be looking down or up at it — and aren’t too close or too far so that you’re moving your neck forward or back.
  • Have your keyboard and mouse positioned so that your arms and elbows make a 90-degree angle.
  • Your chair should be positioned so that your feet touch the floor or footrest completely and that your thighs sit a little lower than your hips.
  • Apply all these tips to any area you’ll be sitting for long, not just in front of the computer — in your car if you sit in traffic a lot, at the dining table, or in front of the television.

See?  All common sense! With good use of judgement, we’ll all be on our way to healthier lives soon enough. What are the ways that you either avoid sitting or prevent your life from becoming too sedentary?

Alyssa Carlos
Alyssa is a full-time defense consultant, part-time Soulcycle addict, and imaginary jeopardy champion. When she's not getting her spin class fix, she's finding new ways to workout so she can eat more, holding concerts in her car during traffic, and aspiring to be the next Anthony Bourdain. You can follow her food adventures at planesandplatters.com or on the following social media sites

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