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A quick glance over the course of human history evidences one great fact about the human body: it was built to move. Our early ancestors were nearly always on the move, and even as recently as 150 years ago, our agrarian society incorporated full body movement as part of the regular work day.
However, in the last 60 years, workers in the United States have progressively become more and more sedentary. Not just in their office work, but in their homes as well. In fact, some studies report that the average American adult spends between 9-12 hours a day simply sitting.
All that sitting around is taking more than a toll on our office and home furniture, it is taking a toll on our hearts.
According to the New York State Department of Health, approximately 35% of US coronary heart disease mortality is due to physical inactivity. This number becomes even more sobering in light of the fact that coronary heart disease is also the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 700,000 deaths each year.
With only about 22% of the American population reporting that they engage in regular sustained physical activity, it seems likely this epidemic will only be on the rise.
Engaging in regular sustained physical activity (an activity of intensity lasting 30 minutes or more five times a week) significantly reduces your risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease. It also helps you prevent developing diabetes, helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your risk of developing hypertensionâ€”all of which would make you even more susceptible to coronary disease.
Of course, our culture didnâ€™t just up and become lazy one day, leading to an increase in heart trouble and disease. The social shift to a more sedentary lifestyle in both our home and workplaces has been a steady transition, ending with more and more individuals spending more and more time behind a desk and on the couch. Some of the major points influencing this shift?
The invention of the cotton gin, by Eli Whitney, began the Industrial Revolution in the US. At the time, no one realized the massive change that machinery created in human health. In the past, long hours spent laboring in the fields or herding livestock were typical. However, after the Industrial Revolution, people worked in factories or offices, and mostly stood or sat. Calories expended became less over the decades, and obesity and diabetes rose.
To make matters worse – at least in terms of physical health â€“ the invention of the automobile changed the world of transportation. Certainly, no one would argue the advantages of the piston engine, or its impact for allowing food and goods to be transported great distances. However, personal transportation by auto superseded walking – particularly walking long distances. The physiological benefits of physical movement were lost.
If the above factors werenâ€™t enough, one other change greatly impacted human health: the television. Many decry the TV as one of the biggest causes for the rise in our sedentary lifestyles.
Americans spend significant amounts of leisure time watching TV, with some researchers suggesting we spend as much as 5 hours a day glued to the tube. A study mentioned in the Journal of the American Medical Association sheds light on this alarming trend and the impact it has on our health:
â€œWhile the associations between time spent viewing TV and risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were linear, the risk of all-cause mortality appeared to increase with TV viewing duration of greater than 3 hours per day.â€
Even the most diehard TV watchers canâ€™t deny that sitting in front of the tube is damaging their health and creating a risk to life.
In light of such facts, what can our culture do to stem the rising tide? The solution is simple; we must sit less and move more. However, living in a work and leisure culture that is primarily oriented toward sitting requires some effort to find ways to incorporate more movement into your routine.
When working to overcome a sedentary lifestyle at home, quite simply, you should just turn off the TV and walk. Walk for recreation, for exercise, and as a method of transportation.Â According to WebMD:
â€œCardiovascular or aerobic exercise is steady physical activity using large muscle groups. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body’s ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing (since your heart won’t have to work as hard during exercise).â€
Taking the initiative to implement and dedicate a portion of your leisure time to a regular workout routine is also an investment that will pay big rewards in terms of your overall health and happiness. Of course, you should always check with your personal physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.
If you cannot find time to work out or donâ€™t have the capability to go for long walks outside your residence, you should find creative ways to incorporate more movement into your activities. For example, dancing as you vacuum your living room burns far more calories than simply pushing the vacuum back and forth. You can also consider additional tips on ways to convert your sedentary lifestyle.
At work you should actively look for ways to be more physically active before sitting at your desk all day. For instance, you can park farther away from your buildingâ€™s entrance and take the stairs when walking into work.
In addition, you should implement movement in your workflow. Productively changing positions frequently and taking small breaks from sitting is an important ergonomic principle that actually enhances your overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Personally investing, or encouraging your management to invest, in high quality office furniture that allows for sit-stand workflow is also important. This type of office furniture recognizes that work that honors movement and the full range of body motion is better not just for you, but for your company as well. VersaTables offers several sit-stand workstation options, and is also happy to provide custom furniture bids for your specific needs.