The danger of this everyday habit

Are you sitting comfortably as you read this?

If so… it might be worth standing up.

Because there is some startling new evidence that doing so could quickly improve your heart.

Certainly, if you regularly swap out sitting with standing, walking, or even SLEEPING you could enjoy better cardiovascular health.

That’s the conclusion of a study published last month in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers looked at data from six studies, numbering 15,246 people from five countries, to see how your daily habits in movement can affect your heart and your weight.

So let’s imagine that in any given day you do a bit of the following…

Sleeping… light activity… walking… sitting… vigorous exercise.

Well, the proportion you do of each can make a real difference.

For instance, swapping out 30 minutes of your sitting time every day with standing, walking or exercise.

They cite the example of a 54-year-old woman with a BMI of 26.5.

If she were to make this kind of change, she could reduce her BMI by 2.4%… reduce her waist circumference by 2.7% and give her a 3.6% decrease in glycated haemoglobin.

Glycated haemoglobin is made when glucose sticks to your red blood cell and begins to build up in your body, causing cardiovascular problems over time.

Dr Jo Blodgett, one of the authors of the study, said:

“The big takeaway from our research is that while small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters. The most beneficial change we observed was replacing sitting with moderate to vigorous activity — which could be a run, a brisk walk, or stair climbing — basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”

The study also reassures us that even if you haven’t the ability or health levels to do exercise every day, there are small changes you can make.

5 easy ways to reduce sitting

For instance, you could use a standing desk for a few hours a day instead of sitting.

This is something I’ve been doing since the early summer.

I have a desk that can switch between standing and sitting, simply by pressing a lever.

Which means I’ve been able to cut my time sitting each day by around two thirds.

It very quickly eliminated a lower back problem and mild sciatic pain that I’d been experiencing.

And while I haven’t tested my heart health or weight changes over that time, I certainly don’t feel any negatives.

In fact, I find that standing while working increases my focus and stops me getting distracted so easily.

So it’s certainly one easy fix.

There are 5 more that I recommend too…

  • Take a short walk around your home, office or garden every hour. If possible, climb some stairs and come down them again a few times.
  • Set reminders on your phone or computer to prompt you to stand up and move around regularly.
  • Replace your chair with a stability ball when watching TV or working at a desk. This is something you can sit on, but which requires your body to continually make tiny movements to stay balanced and stable.
  • When watching TV, try to stand or walk in place during commercial breaks or between episodes during a Netflix binge or a series catch up on BBC iPlayer. This can add up to a significant amount of movement over the course of an evening.
  • Engage in light household chores like folding laundry, ironing, or doing the dishes. These can help you stay on your feet and active.

These tiny changes can make a big difference over time.

The power of atomic habits

This sort of thing reminds me of the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s about how we can make substantial changes in our lives by integrating tiny changes into our daily routine.

So if you wanted to write your memoir, for instance, you might begin with 10 minutes every day jotting down a memory.

It’s easy to do, and within a few months you would have a load of material created, almost effortlessly.

That is far easier, and less overwhelming, than sitting down at a blank screen expecting yourself to start reeling off a first chapter.

The same would apply if you had a big health goal, like losing weight.

Rather than suddenly embarking upon a gruelling diet and exhausting exercise routine, you might start by adding 10 minutes of walking to your day and cut your meal portions down by a 10th.

Then you might double that walking time and cut your portions by another 10th.

Then you might cut out desserts from your evening meal…

And so on, and so forth.

The idea is that small goals are easily and quickly achievable.

They avoid you feeling overwhelmed by too many big changes and stop you burning out and giving up after a few weeks.

The same can apply to your movement habits.

Instead of trying to completely overhaul your daily routine, begin with tiny steps. For example, commit to standing up and stretching for one minute every half hour.

Then make another change, like getting a standing desk or stability ball and using that for 60 minutes a day.

Then after a few more weeks, add another change, like taking a daily 30-minute walk.

Before long you’ll have radically altered the proportion of time you spend sitting during any given week.

As for me, I’ve written this entire newsletter while standing up, so I’m going to take a walk to the kitchen to make a coffee…

Then have a rewarding sit down!