If you visit the NHS website, it offers a sobering thought if you spend much of your day sitting down.
On its “why we should sit less” page, it reveals there is increasing evidence to show that, unless you are a wheelchair user, too much sitting down could be bad for your health.
The impact of sitting for long periods was first noticed in the 1950s, when researchers found double-decker bus drivers were twice as likely to have a heart attack as their bus conductor colleagues.
While drivers sat for 90% of their shift, conductors climbed around 600 stairs a day.
The webpage explains that being inactive can lead to being overweight and obese, both of which could lead to type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Sitting for long periods, it goes on to say, is thought to slow the metabolism, which impacts on the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and break down body fat.
If you are one of the many adults who spend around nine hours a day sitting down, the NHS’s message is clear: move more, sit less. Read on to learn five simple but effective ways to be more mobile at the office to help improve your fitness and health, and potentially reduce aches and pains from extensive sitting.
1. Take regular breaks to reduce sitting time
The NHS website cites the UK Chief Medical Officer’s activity guidelines, which recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with activity for one to two minutes. This could be a walk to the coffee machine or water cooler, or taking the opportunity to talk to a colleague face-to-face instead of emailing.
One way to ensure you get into this habit could be to set a reminder every 30 minutes.
2. Standing during your commute could improve your physical wellbeing
While this isn’t office based, if you commute to work by bus or a train, avoid slouching in your seat as you scroll through social media. This is likely to be detrimental to your spine and joints and may cause back, neck and arm pain.
Instead try standing, as this could help you maintain good posture, which keeps your bones and joints correctly aligned reducing aches and pains. In addition to this, standing also burns up to 200 calories an hour, helping keep your weight at a healthy level.
3. Typically, taking the stairs is a great workout
Choosing to use the stairs will help give your body a short burst of high-intensity exercise that can make a significant difference to the health of your heart and lungs.
According to a recent article in MedicineNet, researchers at McMaster University in Canada found stair climbing not only improved the heart and lungs, but also provided substantial muscular benefits.
4. Standing while you work can reduce the risk of heart disease
According to Healthline, standing at your desk can help burn calories, reducing the risk of weight gain and obesity, and could help reduce blood sugar levels. As the following table shows, the difference in calories burned can be substantial, which could help reduce the risk of heart disease.
It shows the difference in calories burned for sitting for eight hours and combining sitting and standing for four hours each. The figures are based on a 20-year-old male measuring 5ft 9in tall.
Standing at your desk could also ease neck and back pain. According to Healthline, this is the most common complaint for office workers who sit all day. Standing at your desk can help reduce this, with one study claiming upper back and neck pain fell by 54% in four weeks.
Having a “sit or stand” desk – which you can higher or lower – or putting your laptop on top of something so you can stand, could help provide health benefits.
5. Exercise at your desk
According to Bupa, we in the UK take 28 million days off work a year because of muscle and bone problems. To help you and millions of other chair-bound office workers avoid these problems, the private medical care provider suggests you exercise while at your office.
Here are five exercises you might like to try:
- Arm pulses – This exercise works your triceps and helps you stretch out your shoulders. Simply stand up at your desk with arms by your sides and palms facing behind. Move the arms backward for 20 seconds, keeping them as straight as possible.
- Wall push-ups – Stand a few feet away from a wall and lean toward it, placing your hands flat and wider than your shoulders. Move yourself forwards toward the wall maintaining a straight line from your head to your toes, then push back up until your arms are straight. Don’t lock your arms and do 20 repetitions.
- Lunge – Place one leg in front of the other, then gently lower the knee of your back leg down towards the ground. You can do the exercise stationary at your desk, or can do it while moving along a corridor or outside. Try 10 times on each leg.
- Neck roll – Relax and lean your head forward, then very slowly roll your head in a circle on one side for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Shoulder stretch – Clasp your hands together and stretch your arms above your head with palms facing up. Then push your arms up, giving yourself a stretch.
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This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.
Please note, this article only deals with England and our understanding of English Law.