Group of people sitting around perpetuating the sitting epidemic.

The Sitting Epidemic

Trevor Conrod
March 11, 2024
February 28, 2024

What if I said the exact thing you are doing right now is dangerous? Perhaps the most dangerous thing you’ll do today. While that may seem far-fetched, in today’s blog, we are going to be discussing the health risks of prolonged sitting, along with easy ways you can change these ingrained habits we’ve all become accustomed to.

What are the risks?

You may be expecting some of the most obvious symptoms of sitting to be on this list, like a stiff back, tight hip flexors, and so on. But what if there were more severe things to be aware of? Increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer are some of the health concerns being studied and linked with prolonged periods of sitting. More research is underway to conclude the exact amounts and specific links. One article from Harvard Health explains that when sitting, your largest muscles relax. “When muscles relax, they take up very little glucose from the blood, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes.“ It’s clear that when we sit, less energy is used by our body compared to standing or moving.

In addition to these harmful effects, things like varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can creep up as blood in the legs begins to pool during inactivity. Deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot that typically occurs in the legs. If a piece of this clot dislodges, it can obstruct blood flow to other areas, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. This serious condition can result in severe consequences or even death. Prolonged periods of sitting increase the risk of developing DVT.

How Long is too long?

The question on everyone's mind, right?

I’m probably not the one sitting for that long, am I?

Collective studies analyzing sitting time and activity levels found that those sitting for 8 or more hours with little breaks had a “risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking.” So that 9-5 with a 15-minute break, isn’t going to cut it. An article from Sanford Health mentioned the mentality some have with prolonged sitting. “Lots of people will think, ‘I did 45 minutes of workout in the morning, I should be good for the day,’ but when you’re sitting in the car, sitting at a computer, watching TV, that doesn’t matter,” Dr. Rajpurohit said. “If you sit continuously for six to eight hours with no break, you may not be able to counter the effects of that. Even those who work out and do moderately intense physical activity each day need to stay moving.”

This Stanford article was especially insightful for me; as a coach who is on my feet between 4-8 hours a day jogging and working out, when it came to office work, I tended to slack off. My posture wasn’t ideal, my back would ache, and my neck would get stiff. Thankfully, these past few months I’ve been on my own journey to reinvent my workspace. More on this later!

Who is affected?

The sitting epidemic affects those in nearly every industry. Even in ones you wouldn't expect, like fitness coaches. From school teachers to nurses, bus drivers, and office workers, sitting for extended periods of time can have negative impacts on physical health and overall well-being. Regardless of what industry you are in, this problem can be addressed. Some creativity may need to be exercised, but overall health should take top priority when discussing changes with your boss or co-workers.

By incorporating simple yet effective measures into your daily routine, you can combat the negative effects of sedentary behavior and improve your health and well-being. It is important to prioritize proactive steps to promote movement and combat the sitting epidemic in order to create a healthier and more dynamic work environment for all. The good news is that studies have shown that those who consistently take a break after 30-minutes of sitting have lower mortality rates. And by using some active workplace hacks, taking these breaks throughout the day can fit seamlessly into your work routine.

How can we fix this?

Fixing the problem itself is simple, but following and adapting to the changes can be the challenging part. I am going to list various ways you can move your body throughout the day, however, I recommend slowly implementing just one recommendation at a time. Try it out for a solid month or two, before adding other changes to your lifestyle. Allowing your muscles to adapt and your body to adjust gradually will increase the likelihood of long-term success and prevent burnout. Remember, small, sustainable changes over time lead to lasting results. So be patient with yourself and celebrate each small victory along the way.

Addressing your station, let’s start from the ground up with different office chair options. One recent investment I made was in a VARI sit/stand active seat. This seat allows you to sit for one second and stand at another. Using good posture is on you, as there is no backrest. This can be good or bad. As I mentioned before, it may take some time for your body to get used to this type of setup. In my experience, however, back pain has slimmed to none, and I enjoy the ability to move freely from various heights other chairs cannot provide.

To pair with my active seat, I needed a way to adjust my mouse and keyboard, but a standing desk wasn’t an option for my setup. Instead, I went with an adjustable mouse and keyboard stand for my main computer, and the standing keyboard tray for my laptop. This pair has worked great for allowing swift height adjustments with minimal effort. Not to mention, both options come in at an affordable price for what they offer, better posture.

But besides workstation adjustments, here are three ways you can incorporate movement into your workday without the extra hassle.

Take the stairs

Modern-day office spaces have made it increasingly easier to get comfortable with being sedentary. From elevators to comfy lounge couches, many offices focus more on seated options than standing. Taking the stairs when traveling to and from offices or meeting rooms can be a crucial change in gaining movement in your day.

Schedule a stretch

Just like important calls and tasks, your body can use penciled-in calendar time too! By scheduling in 5-minute stretch intervals to your daily routine, you can ensure your body is getting a much needed rest at appropriate intervals.

Grab a friend

When adding any new habit to your routine, there can be friction. Grabbing a friend to go for a lunchtime walk, or taking the stairs to the next meeting, can make this new habit much easier to adapt to.

Remember, the key is to find what works best for you and to make small, sustainable changes over time. By gradually incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you will not only improve your physical health but also boost your productivity and overall well-being in the workplace. So, take the first step towards healthier posture today and start making positive changes for your body and mind.

Trevor Conrod
Trevor Conrod
Trevor Conrod is the founder and small business owner of LWStrength and a content creator for Nivati. Designed to serve members in-person and online, this facility offers an intuitive and exciting take on the traditional group fitness experience. His primary purpose is to help others find their strength, both physically and mentally, as stated in the company's slogan, “Find Your Strength.”