Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
We’ve all been there—pumping out the obligatory 30 minutes of exercise followed by a long, monotonous day of sitting. To the dismay of office workers, a growing body of research supports the line of thinking that short workouts are somewhat worthless in the shadow of an otherwise sedentary day, essentially scrapping those workout benefits.
What the research says
This research doesn't mean: “Oh good, I don’t need to exercise at all then!” Study results are clear—we need to move our bodies more, and while a quick trip to the gym doesn’t compensate for a day of sitting, it is better than nothing.
It’s unfortunate, but the vast majority of people in the United States spend the greater part of their day sitting in various familiar scenarios: mom’s taxi service, commuting to work, sitting at a desk, or hours spent on the couch.
According to Mayo Clinic, “there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that excessive sitting is lethal,” associating a sedentary lifestyle with more than a few dozen chronic health conditions including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Research out of UT Southwestern Medical Center suggests that “two hours of sedentary behavior can be just as harmful as twenty minutes of exercise is beneficial.” You do the math.
Decreasing sitting throughout the day can be a complement to maintaining and improving health in addition to physical activity.
The detriments of sitting
As the Industrial Revolution pushed people from farms to factories, sitting took hold. Modern offices are set up for efficiency, not health, with the mindset of movement equating to time wasted. When computers took over the desktop, it was the death of walking at work—people are glued to their chairs.
We’re beginning to understand how unhealthy eating habits can be; the time has come to associate sitting with a similar mindset. Just because we sit a lot doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sitting isn’t discriminatory—studies show the negative side effects of sitting on all body types. Thin individuals aren’t exempt; it’s unhealthy for everyone.
Movement engages muscles and allows us to use insulin more efficiently. Consider the impact of sitting on blood sugars by checking them throughout an inactive day, and compare it with those on an active day—you can make clear correlations between the two. One of the bonus measures a person living with diabetes has is a glucometer, which allows us a peek into how our metabolism functions.
Changing the mindset
Productivity and health improves with movement; employers need to not only understand this concept but also embrace it. In fact, movement throughout the day can help people overcome their energy slumps. It’s no joke that “walking could increase energy levels by 150 percent,” which Tom Rath asserted in Forbes.
All is not lost. You can easily change your lifestyle to a more active one with a few minor alterations.
7 ways to move more during your workday
• Request a stand-up desk.
• Wear a pedometer or a fitness tracker to ensure you’re moving enough.
• Take a lunch time walk.
• Sit on a fitness ball instead of a chair.
• Stand up every half hour or hour and stretch, walk to the bathroom, or refill your water.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
• Park at the back of the parking lot so you have a longer time to walk.
Alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. This approach to office work has shown beneficial results in glucose values. But you don’t need a diabetes diagnosis to reap the benefits from more activity. Researchers aren’t asking that much of us—simply start standing more often.