Sitting could just be the new smoking.

Many office workers, in particular, are in danger of sitting themselves to death and should urgently kick this unhealthy habit. In fact, a number of studies have indicated that there are a wide range of negative health implications to spending hours each day sitting, which hundreds of thousands of South Africans do in the workplace. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that physical inactivity can lead to heart ailments and other non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and certain types of cancer, and is estimated to be responsible for some 1.9 million deaths worldwide each year.

As technology has, and continues, to take over those tasks that used to be performed by muscle, millions of people worldwide find themselves sitting behind a desk, gazing at a computer screen. Many people mistakenly assume that going to gym for a few hours a week can counter the effects of sitting, however this does not seem to offset the risk. 
Rising levels of physical idleness are largely attributed to urbanisation, greater use of cars, less space for walking or recreation in cities and, particularly, the shift towards desk-bound work. As awareness of the dangers of prolonged sitting has grown, this has been accompanied by a proliferation in the use of standing desks.

Now before you take out a second mortgage to buy yourself a standing desk, try one of the following cheaper, and equally effective options. Simply put a box, or a small chest of drawers on top of your existing desk. You could also get creative with ordinary items around the office, such as a box of printer paper, to create your own standing desk. 

If you work in an environment where you can’t use a standing desk and alternate between standing and sitting, here are some handy tips to make sure you lessen the effects of prolonged periods at your desk:

  • Take movement breaks every 30 to 45 minutes by getting up and walking around the office
  • Rotate your feet while sitting in your chair to boost circulation to your legs
  • Stretch forward in your chair to stretch your back and neck muscles
  • Park near the back of the parking lot to get a few extra steps in per day
  • Walk over and talk to a coworker instead of emailing them
  • Take the scenic route to the bathroom instead of the most direct
  • Stay active after hours by taking an evening walk or visiting the gym