BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Are you sitting down right now? Don't make it a habit. A recent study found that sitting for eight hours a day or more increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90%.
"Standing desks" can be found in front of staffers throughout Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Losing the chair is a simple adjustment with the potential to prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
"We spend a third of our lives at work, and about 80% of that time is sedentary activity. So we just try and get people moving," said Employee Wellness Coordinator Stefany Achee.
Achee manages employee exercise programs on Pennington's sprawling Perkins Road campus. Walking the grounds is her favorite way to keep moving.
"I try to – at least every hour of working, I'll take a five to ten-minute break. So I'll stretch or I'll walk around or take the stairs," she said.
The revelation that regular exercise does not erase all the negative effects of sedentary behavior is surprising too many. Researchers found that less sedentary time meant better cardiovascular function and blood sugar regulation.
"Physical activity and sedentary behavior are two different things," explained assistant professor Robert L. Newton Jr, Ph.D. "It's difficult to be that active and then counter the eight to 10 hours in which you're being sedentary, in which your body really is not using the active muscles of the body."
It's not hard to not be sedentary, but it does mean adjusting your routine to incorporate regular movement. Researchers recommend five minutes for every hour that you sit.
"It doesn't have to be moderate to vigorous physical activity, so it can be simply getting up and taking a slow walk around your office, or getting up during commercials, or just standing more when you do typical activities," Newton said.
You can try "walking meetings." Instead of booking conference rooms, walk the halls of your office building or go outside. If you must be in a conference room, take away the chairs. You also don't have to take phone calls sitting down. Simply standing will burn calories and provide benefits.
Newton says excessive sitting is a recent phenomenon brought on by industrialization and the luxuries of modern society.
"Previous to this, people were moving around all time, and sitting wasn't as frequent as what it is today, as prevalent as what it is today. Genetically we're engineered to keep moving," he said.
If you do stay sitting, try a timer that reminds you to get up at least once an hour. Subtle movements like neck rolls and hamstring stretches won't replace daily exercise, but will help promote blood flow, joint health, and stronger muscles.
Standing up and twisting, or even standing on one leg will help too. Developing a healthy posture will strengthen your core muscles, which means less neck, shoulder, and back discomfort and better breathing.
Newton said he expects future, longer-term studies to show that sedentary behavior also has negative effects on mood and cognitive abilities, but he hopes the research will also show how to reverse such effects.