The evidence is in — your chair is killing you. Many American workers sit more than 15 hours each day. Think about it for a second. You get up in the morning, drive to work, sit all day long at work, drive home, eat dinner, watch TV and surf the Internet before bed. This degree of excess sitting is not what our bodies were designed to do.
Studies in agricultural communities, where people move naturally, suggest that our bodies are designed to move all day and only use a chair for a well-deserved rest. People were never designed to be crammed into chairs: sitting all day long is lethal.
Lethal sitting is associated with many chronic disease and conditions — diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer (especially breast cancer) and depression, to name only a few. The chair addiction has to stop. Declare war on your chair — get up!
There are five weapons you’ll need to escape chair bondage.
1. Know what makes you more likely to sit, and plan an alternative.
If I don’t go to my favorite store, I won’t spend money. If I don't buy cookies and have them in the house, I'm less likely to eat them. If I don't prioritize a yoga class at 4pm this, I'm less likely to attend it. Or, if I get home on Friday without any weekend plans, I' m unlikely to get off the couch.
Inform your colleague that from now on, your Thursday meeting will be "walk and talk." Put a red sticker on your phone to remind you that every time you get texts or a call, you will get up and out of your chair. Dust off the treadmill from the basement and put it in front of the TV. Where sitting stimuli are present, make alternative options easily accessible and even preferable.
2. Keep track of your progress.
If I'm trying to pay off my car or credit card loan, I keep track of my bank account. The second tool to reverse chair addiction is self-monitoring. There are a host of devices and apps to help. Activity tracking apps are free.
A word of caution: people get bored with self-monitoring once they see improvement. I suggest that use your self-tracker app or device for a few weeks at time to make sure that you’re on the right path and that you are keeping up with progress.
3. Create a reward system.
This is a fun one. Think of the power of Frequent Flyer miles, coupon clipping and the never ceasing series of reward programs. One of my clients who worked for an air conditioning company could not get his head around quitting smoking. I got him into a quit program and told him to put all his cigarette money IN CASH into a vase. Almost 18 months later, I received a postcard from him. He was in Hawaii.
Reward systems are powerful. Earn it, love it! The movement of truth is now: get up (yes — do it now). Once you’re up, you’ll find that your new dynamic and vibrant life is joyous and (be prepared) a little addictive. Many of patients get the movement gig as if it’s a religion. Yes, happiness is a reward enough but also set yourself smart goals. Once your activity tracker shows you have increased moving time 20%, it is time to get that bike you lusted for.
4. Train your thought patterns to stop being so hard on yourself.
“How can I ever get myself out of debt because I'm a spender?” “How can I ever ask him out; he’s out of my league?” Will she EVER get up enough courage to ask him out? You know the answer!
I have heard this from clients who are overweight, “I feel so bad when I go out,” or, “I feel ugly.” The reality is that this is ALL said by your internal voice. You must stop putting yourself down. If you don’t love yourself, why should anyone else love you? Stick a pitchfork in that negative voice and toss it away. Get up, look at yourself in the mirror (yes, do it), smile and get out there and live life — vibrantly. If that bad negative voice dares even a whisper inside of you, tell it to get lost! You can stop being addicted to sitting! You are more than capable!
5. Get social support.
The human is a social animal. The number one question I asked my kids when they got back from school was: what did you learn? The number one thing they told me about was about their friends, or foes. Social support is as critical to going for a walk at lunchtime, as it is for having healthy foods at home.
Social support is the final weapon of success. I cannot count the number of times by family, friends, colleagues or even strangers have lifted me up. If you are having trouble getting up, look for a friend to help you. If you see someone struggling to get up, help them. And ... get some walking buddies!
Step by step we can get end lethal sitting and win the war against the chair. Get up and make it so!