Most estimates suggest that the average American spends 12 hours a day sitting, which means if you are getting your recommended 8 hours of sleep—and I hope you are—you might be spending more than 20 hours a day completely sedentary. Similar studies suggest that a sedentary lifestyle is the fourth leading cause of mortality, accounting for up to 3.2 million deaths per year (Learn more at JustStand.Org and check out their sources).
If you think about what a person’s day might consist of: A long commute (sitting), a desk-based job (sitting), a long commute home (sitting), an exhausted few hours on the couch to de-stress from the day (sitting) before going to sleep. Even if you have scheduled time for exercise, such as an hour in the evening to hit the gym, your day is still largely spent almost entirely immobile.
Some physicians have gone as far as to call sitting the new smoking because of how many health problems a life spent mostly sitting can create. In the Habits of Health world, however, we focus on what you stand to gain by adopting a Habit of Health to replace this Habit of Disease. In short, if you can stand more and sit less, you can potentially add years of vibrant health to your life, enjoy a more energetic lifestyle, and move toward a healthy weight.
The simple act of standing burns more calories by activating more muscles, promotes better posture, and can improve circulation.
Here are some ideas for finding more opportunities to stand:
- Fix your commute. If you can adjust your schedule to miss traffic (perhaps by going in earlier or later), you can cut back on your drivetime. Many members of our health community have gone as far as to entirely reframe their careers with their new view on health, finding jobs closer to home in part to reduce their commutes.
- Set an alarm to stand for 10 minutes each hour. Instead of sitting at your desk for hours on end, set a reminder to get up and move. If you can, take a brief walk to the water cooler or stand as you take a few phone calls. These minutes add up, and each one counts.
- Consider a standing desk. Some workplaces are now providing standing desks as an optional benefit, making what used to be a significant investment more accessible. If you aren’t able to purchase a standing desk for yourself, ask your boss if the company can provide assistance in getting you one.
- Adjust your leisure time at home. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a movie or a television show, but when sitting on the couch is your primary leisure activity, something is wrong. Look into more active hobbies—even a simple walking routine is a big boost for your health—or mix activity into your television viewing by walking on a treadmill or doing yoga while you enjoy your shows.
- Start small and work your way up. Though I’d like to see you add a few hours of standing to your daily routine eventually, if you can begin by adding an extra 10 minutes each day, you can continue growing that number steadily over time.
Remember, every bit of activity counts, and this straightforward adjustment to your lifestyle could be the beginning to a vibrant lifestyle change. Stand up, and start to stand out.