To Sit or Not To Sit?

The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.”

John F. Kennedy

I spent most of the first 10 years of my career standing.  I worked an operational job in the hospitality industry.  From my early jobs as a floor manager; or events coordinator; or later as a senior manager in a busy hotel, I was always on my feet.  When I was in the hotel; I also had to contend with constant running up and down four flights of stairs.  I used to complain about how difficult my job was, because you literally had to steal few moments here and there to sit, whether it was to do admin work or to have lunch.  I longed for the opportunity to have a quiet admin job where I could be the master of my own desk and calmly sit in still contentment getting on with my work.

My wish came true when I landed my dream job as Human Resources manager at the hotel.  The work fit me like a glove.  I loved that I could tap into my love of supporting and helping people; get creative with developing training programs; and have the opportunity to influence the company’s people strategy.  What surprised me was that the part of the job that I hated was all the sitting.  So many years in operations, close to the pulse of the business, the constant curve balls, really got my adrenaline pumping.  My new position wasn’t quite as frenetic.  Yes, there were days like that, but for the most part there was a lot of routine and sitting.

Fortunately, with being a training facilitator, I had many days where I spent is standing in front of a room full of delegates.  But, on those day when I was confined to my office to do admin work, I tended to jump up and down every few seconds to engage with my team, to avoid the routine of sitting.

Little did I know; how healthy the constant interruption of my sitting was.  What I wasn’t aware of was the serious health hazard I was being exposed to in my desk-based job.  When I learnt about the dangers – some experts even saying it was more dangerous than smoking – I stood up and took note.

I have never been blessed with good posture; I slouch all the time – even when I walk.  Part of it was due to laziness, but part of it may also have been a body-language symptom of my own lack of self-confidence.   I couldn’t change that fact that I need to sit in front of computer to do my job; so, I needed to learn some other healthy habits to mitigate the dangers that my chosen career presented to me.

Watch Episode 7 of The Flying Phoenix’s Weekly Facebook Live Broadcast and find out about some of the specific steps I took. (Due to technical issues at the time of broadcast, some of the audio isn’t clear.)

Top points from the broadcast

Potential health risks due to extended sitting:

  • Sitting for more than 6 hours a day increases the risk of death by up to 40%
  • As soon as you sit:
    • Electrical activity in your leg muscles shut off
    • Calorie burning drops to 1 per minute
    • Enzymes that break down fat drop by 90%
  • After 2 hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops by 20%
  • After 24 hours, insulin effectiveness drops by 24% and your risk of diabetes rises
  • 3hrs of tv watching = 64% increase in risk of death. Each extra hour of watching tv raises that risk by a further 11%

Standing, while being better than sitting, is not a good enough alternative to mitigate the ill-effects of sitting.  Movement is the best antidote to sitting.

How to mitigate the impact of sitting:

  • Walk around every 30 minutes. Set a reminder to remember to get up from your desk to walk a little to revive the muscles and the blood flow.  Use a stand-up app or a fitness watch to help remind you.
  • Plan your work so that the tasks that don’t require sitting can be done while moving; e.g. make your phone calls while walking.
  • If you have to sit, ensure you are sitting with the correct posture. Do exercises to strengthen your core so that you can sit correctly more easily.  Check the ergonomics of your desk and car seat to ensure you are getting the correct support.
  • Do chair yoga to encourage movement even when sitting.
  • Avoid seated activities that are within your control; e.g. watch less tv; spend less time playing computer games
  • View walking around as an opportunity. Leaving your desk is an opportunity to network, engage with your team or clients; build better relationships; see what’s happening in the operation.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from you.  What has your experience been with this topic?  Do you have some tips or strategies in addition to the one’s mentioned above?  Maybe you have a burning question?  Perhaps you have the solution to someone else’s question.

The best growth and learning comes from engagement and sharing, please comment below and share your thoughts, questions and personal experiences.


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