Let me ask you a question: which of the following people do you think is healthier?
- A person who goes to the gym for 1 hour per day, and works in an office job where they sit for the remainder of the day
- A person who never does any formal/intense exercise, but is generally active throughout the day with incidental exercise
Studies have shown that person 2 is typically healthier than person 1. This is because excessive sitting is one of the worst things for your health, even if you exercise daily.
Even if you get the recommended dose of physical exercise (30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, 5 days per week), sitting for long periods throughout the day can still have seriously negative effects on waist circumference (obesity), blood pressure, blood glucose (diabetes), triglycerides (fats), and cholesterol. A term has been coined for people who sit all day but still get their exercise requirements: The active couch potato.
A 2014 study estimated that for every two hours you sit, the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise are cancelled out… What a waste!
There are 2 excuses I commonly hear for why people think they can’t stand to work on a computer. The first is they think they won’t be able to concentrate well and the second is they don’t have a sit-to-stand desk. Let’s address both of these now.
When you sit, this position signals your brain and nervous system that it’s time to switch off. Your brains become less alert, there is less blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles and most of your body systems are less active. Your brain and body have evolved this way, because when your ancestors sat around campfires, it meant that it was time to wind down after a long day of hunting and gathering. It’s a bit like power-saving mode. Despite thinking you have better concentration in sitting, you do not.
When you stand up and start moving, something pretty cool happens: the change in body position tells your brain that you need to be focused and ready for action, so your thinking becomes clear and more alert. You engage more muscles, pumping fresh blood and oxygen around your body, flooding it with nutrients and washing away toxins. Your bones and muscles get stronger, your digestive system functions better and all the cells in your body become healthier.
Whilst spending a few hundred dollars on a desk may feel like a barrier, purchasing a good sit-to-stand desk will save you money on medical bills over the long term, so it’s a solid investment. Check out my personal favourite, Omnidesk (https://theomnidesk.com.au/ –> use the code NECKSPERT for 10% off).
So in summary, whether you’re a classic couch potato or a fit couch potato, it’s important to increase your general mobility throughout the day through standing, moving, stretching and walking, to ensure you stay healthy and avoid spinal pain or chronic health conditions.