How balanced active sitting can improve both physical and mental health

Did you know that sitting at a desk all day can actually be worse than smoking or eating donuts?

In fact, research links sitting for long periods of time to obesity, spikes in blood pressure, increased blood sugar and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, if you spend the majority of your day sitting at a desk, insulin effectiveness drops by 24%, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, according to research. If this statistic isn’t enough to scare you, the National Cancer Institute reveals that sitting can lead to major increases in your risk for various cancers.

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Even worse, The American Cancer Society finds that workers who sit more than six hours a day increase their risk of death by 19%.

As you can, recent medical research concludes that sitting for extended periods is so unhealthy that the scientific community has coined the term, “sitting disease.”
Fighting Sitting Disease

One solution to combat sitting disease is an approach I like to call Balanced Active Sitting. The technique can improve posture, burn calories, help people stay alert and focused, ultimately resulting in an overall healthier lifestyle.

As an experienced ergonomics expert and someone who has personal experience with the negative health consequences of “sitting disease,” I believe one of the primary components required to make active sitting effective is balance. After working at a desk job in an office for numerous years – and experiencing a significant decline in my overall health as a result – I decided to research ergonomics and have made it my mission to teach others in the corporate world how to fight sitting disease.

Balanced active sitting has been proven to help with physical health and cognitive functioning.

According to research, “balancing” is one way to improve your memory and cognition by requiring a complex synchronization of mental function and physical movement. One of the four main classifications of fitness – along with strength, endurance, and flexibility – is balance. It is often overlooked however, it is one of the most critical components and lends itself to the office setting.

Challenging the body’s ability to balance is the most effective way to strengthen the paraspinal muscles in the postural system. These muscles keep the vertebra aligned in the spine, support proper posture and are critical to maintaining good balance.

Increased caloric burn and heart rate are caused by the activation of the core muscles. Some of the latest specialty office furniture – like balance chairs – can help activate this required balance, helping to control the amount of energy it takes to stay on your center of gravity. With this method, you not only improve your posture and burn calories, but you stay more alert and focused, leading to a healthier lifestyle.

Furthermore, many of these modern innovations help promote increased brain activity and improved cognitive performance from the complex synchronization of mental function and the physical movement required for balance.

Other ways to get moving

If you drive to work and spend long days hunched over a desk, then you are likely accumulating hours and hours of sitting. However, there are several tactics you can use to fight “sitting disease.” Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, even if it’s only for a minute or two. Setting a reminder or timer can help.
  • Take phone calls standing up.
  • Always take the stairs.
  • Use your lunch break to walk. It can add years to your life.
  • Consider organizing team walking meetings (versus sitting in a conference room).
  • If you have to drive to a meeting and park, take the long way. Always park in a spot farthest from the door to get in some additional steps.
  • Refill your water every hour. As a bonus, if you keep drinking water all day, chances are that you will also need to use the bathroom more often – another opportunity to walk and move your body.

Some final thoughts

At the end of the day, everyone should look for ways to stay in motion throughout the day. The most important aspect to realize about sitting disease is that while it comes with long-term effects and consequences, it is quite easy to prevent.

By taking small steps (pun intended), you can reduce your risk of suffering from a variety of acute and chronic illnesses. Start today by developing new habits – and getting the tools you need – to set yourself up for ultimate health success.

Scott Bahneman is an ergonomics industry expert on a mission to teach others in the corporate world how to combat “sitting disease.” He is the Founder & Chairman of SitTight® a company that has transformed sitting into an activity that improves your health by using your body’s natural ability to balance. Bahneman has been featured on Innovation Nation with Mo Rocca, Fast Company Magazine, and last year, SitTight won the bronze at the 2018 Edison Awards!

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