By Michael W. Smith, MD
WebMD Chief Medical Editor
Do you have sitting disease? Chances are you do. You’ve probably guessed the remedy — stand up. Move. But for how long, and what exactly do you need to do?
A flurry of studies in recent years shows that we’re slowly killing ourselves by sitting too long on our tuckuses. The number of health problems associated with prolonged sitting continues to grow, from too much belly fat to heart disease and even cancer.
Now experts are telling us we should be on our feet at least two hours during the workday. But maybe as little as a 2-minute walk every hour is enough – at least according to a recent study that showed this minimal amount of walking decreased the chance of premature death by 33%.
Who’s right? Can’t experts just agree? Well, they do.
If you’re a master desk jockey, then begin with a 2-minute hourly walk. Here’s a tip to help you remember to get up: drink enough water, so you have to get up at least every hour to use the bathroom. Staying well hydrated also helps keep your body running at top speed – even your metabolism.
That 2-minute walk is a good start. But if health is a priority for you (I hope it is), then step it up a bit over time. Get up on your feet at least 2 hours a day. If you want even better health, work up to 4 hours.
How healthy do you want to be? Do you want to maximize your chance of a long, healthy, vibrant life? Then capitalize on what we know. Standing up and moving around is good for you. Sitting isn’t.
Look for more opportunities to break up your day. Stand during meetings. Ask your employer for a sit-stand desk. Take a 5-minute walk every hour. Baby steps, and over time you’ll be the talk of the office (in a good way).
One important note … all this walking and standing doesn’t get you off the hook for exercise. If you really want your best health, throw in some moderate exercise — 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Yes, in addition to your newfound love of standing and walking at work.
Unless you were walking around reading this (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that), now’s a good time to get started on your new health goal.