Science Says Sitting Can Kill You, Even If You Exercise Daily. Here's What To Do
You've probably heard that "sitting is the new smoking," and new research confirms this unsettling sentence. A large study published in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at the habits of nearly 8,000 adults and found that the amount of time participants spent sitting was directly correlated with their risk of early death. And yes, that's even the case if you exercise regularly.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, many of us have to sit. It's 2017, and our jobs typically require us to hunch over a computer rather than spend our days hunting and gathering. As alarming as this study is, there is some good news that comes out of it: If you move every 30 minutes, your mortality risk is significantly lower.
So, how can you make that happen? Here's what the experts suggest.
Drink tons of water.
Michelle Cady, health coach and founder of FitVista.com, advises her clients to drink tons of water—because yes, having to pee every 30 minutes is actually tremendously helpful when it comes to sitting less.
"During our waking hours, we should be going to the bathroom every hour and in turn, drinking enough water to promote frequent urination," she explains. "I recommend my health coaching clients 'do the triangle walk' every hour. This walk includes leaving their cubicle, refilling their water, going to the bathroom, and returning to their cubicle. It takes only three or four minutes, and it makes you more productive when you sit back down at your desk and get back to business."
And if drinking tons of water isn't natural for you, Cady suggests finding a water bottle you love. "If you don't like your water bottle, you won't use it. Treat yourself to a gorgeous glass bottle that's easily washed at the office and doesn't give you the creeps. Better yet, purchase a beautiful water glass that you enjoy carrying with you to meetings or looks nice sitting by your computer."
Invest in small yoga therapy balls.
For integrative medicine doctor Tiffany Lester, this study hits close to home. "I can end up sitting for up to 12 hours either seeing patients or writing. While I do try to get up and take frequent breaks to stretch out tight hip flexors, this is not always enough," she says. As a way to keep her muscles and body engaged throughout the day, Lester uses small yoga therapy balls. "I place them right in the middle of my gluteus medius muscle and roll on them for a few minutes at night to loosen up my hips. "
She adds that in addition to adding more movement to her day, these balls are amazing for fascia health. "This fascia constricts when sitting for long periods leading to knots in muscle that can cause discomfort and pain. I can also easily pack them in my suitcase as they are practically weightless and lifesavers after a long plane ride. It's powerful to know I can self-massage my fascia to create healthier tissues at any given moment."
If you are so inclined, set an alarm on your phone and have it go off every 30 minutes.
While Cady believes we already spend too much time with technology and could benefit from using a lot less of it (which is why she recommends utilizing the body's "natural" alarm clock), she does believe in the general sentiment of setting a 30-minute "get up and walk" alarm—and many experts recommend this technique. So if you're someone who is on a phone or computer all day anyway, add an alarm that reminds you to get up and walk every 30 minutes. Even if you don't do it every single time, the constant reminder will be helpful in the long run.
Want to learn more about the benefits of fitness? Here's how exercise could lower your breast cancer risk.
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Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist and former Senior Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen where she analyzed new research on human behavior, looked at the intersection of wellness and women's empowerment, and took deep dives into the latest sex and relationship trends. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis. She has written for HuffPost, Glamour, and NBC News, among others, and is a certified yoga instructor.