Health update: Is sitting all day long the new smoking?

-Feb 7, Jenny Paul, Fitness -

Sitting is apparently the new smoking with studies linking a sedentary lifestyle to everything from cancer and diabetes to heart disease. That’s right, your sofa and office chair are both public enemy number one when it comes to your health.


Are you spending many hours each day sitting down? According to the latest research, most of us spend 9.5 hours sitting at our desks every single day. A recent study found that marketing and communication professionals are two of the unhealthiest professions in the UK and the US, because they spend so many hours sitting down each day.

When you factor in the stress levels, it’s worth being proactive and ensuring that you take steps to look after your physical health.

Easy ways to stop sitting and start moving


A Fitbit – or any app that reminds you to be active each day – is a pretty sound investment. And if you can, walk everywhere – a decent step counting app will also give you a nudge when you haven’t moved in a while. You don’t have to go to the gym to fit some exercise into your day, and one thing that you can do whilst on those long boring conference calls is get up and fit in some all-important stretching and yoga moves.

How to break up time spent sitting at your desk with yoga


Try incorporating a few yin yoga poses to break up the time spent sitting; unlike other forms of yoga, yin yoga is a form of deep stretching that takes advantage of gravity and holding passive poses for a longer period of time – meaning even 20 minutes of deep stretching at the office shouldn’t work up a sweat.

You don’t have to have ballerina-level flexibility or years of yoga classes behind you to perform a few of these movements or to get the added benefits of relieving joint and muscle pain, increasing mobility and reducing your stress level. The best part is, you can do these poses whether you work in a corner office, or a cubicle, or even at home!

Yoga you can do in the office so you’re sitting less each day 


Check out these five office asanas:


1. Sphinx. If you have an afternoon crash, back bends will give you a boost of energy. Lie flat on your belly with your legs together. Bring your elbows under your shoulders and slowly press your palms into the ground, rising up onto your forearms as you lift your head and shoulders away from the floor. This gentle back bend stretches the spine, chest, and abdomen.


2. Caterpillar. Perfect to relieve that ache in your neck and back after a day spent on the computer or looking down at your phone, Hilton recommends doing the caterpillar pose every day. Sit on the floor with both legs stretched out in front of you. Roll your head forward onto your neck and slowly fold at the hips, allowing your back to round. (Imagine you fell asleep sitting up, and you’ll nail this pose). With each exhale, allow your chest to drop a little closer to your legs.


3. Dangling. Stand up, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, and fold forward. Cross your arms and rest your forehead against your forearms. This pose relieves back lower pain and stretches the hamstrings. Bonus feature: It has been known to relieve menstrual cramps, as well.


4. Camel. If you have a tendency to slump in your chair while you work, spend a minute or two in camel pose. Come to a kneeling position on your knees and place your hands on the ground behind you, fingers pointing away from your body. Gradually lift your hips. As your hips move forward, your back will arch. Unless you have neck problems, let your head drop back so you are facing the ceiling.


5. Standing figure four. This pose requires a little balance, but it’s perfect for opening up the hips. Begin with both feet planted on the floor, about hip-width apart. Shift your weight to your right leg, and fold your left foot up to rest on your right thigh. Bend your right knee, and lean forward over your legs. Repeat standing on the left leg. You can hold on to a chair or wall for extra support.

Hold each pose for about 3-5 minutes, gradually deepening the stretch as you exhale. One final benefit of yin yoga: mental stability. Your colleagues may begin to notice that you’re unruffled by challenges or able to really zero in on what a client wants even during the most mind-numbing meetings. That’s because yin poses are designed to prepare mind and body for meditation. After even a short yin session, you may discover a deep sense of calm, greater focus and a renewed sense of creativity.


How healthy is your career?


Top five healthiest jobs


1. Trades (construction, plumbing) – 7 hours of activity per day

2. Health and fitness – 5 hours of activity per day

3. Agriculture – 4.5 hours of activity per day

4. Retail – 3.5 hours of activity per day

5. Manufacturing – 3 hours of activity per day


Top five unhealthiest jobs


1. Information and communication – 0.4 hours of activity per day

2. Marketing – 0.6 hours of activity per day

3. Professional service (law accountancy) – 0.7 hours of activity per day

4. Utilities – 1 hour of activity per day

5. Government – 1.4 hours of activity per day


A lot of professionals have started to invest in standing desks to combat the unhealthy aspect of sitting all day long. But there’s lots of other things you can do too. Try yoga queen Gloria Latham’s five non-negotiable tips for wellness, and did you know that you can dance yourself younger? – Turn off that laptop and turn the music up and get up and dance. Now that’s a fitness craze we can certainly get behind. 

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