Today’s men and women spend more time sitting down than any generation before. Think about it: whether at work, in a meeting, getting together with friends or relaxing after work, the vast majority of the day for the average American is spent, well, on our butts.
The average American now sits for an average of 9.3 hours a day—that’s even more than we spend sleeping, which accounts for an average 7.7 hours of our day. We’re so used to sitting and it’s so accepted in our culture that we don’t even notice that we’re doing it, and we don’t think twice about it. To put it plainly, our generation has a sitting epidemic.
Medical science, of course, says we should spend far less time sitting and far more moving around getting exercise. After just 60 minutes spent sitting down, our body’s production of fat-burning enzymes drops by up to 90%. Sitting for long periods of time slows down our metabolism, lowering the level of things like good cholesterol in our blood.
sitting at deskStudies show that the amount of time we spend not moving accounts for approximately 7% of the impact for type II diabetes, 6% for heart disease, and 10% for colon and breast cancer. And to put it in context, the death rate from obesity in America has hit 35 million. The death rate from tobacco is 3.5 million–just a tenth of the same figure for obesity. In an Australian study published last year, a doctor went on the record saying that sitting more than nine hours a day is quite literally a lethal activity.
Over the last five years or so, we’ve seen some workers begin implementing “standing desks”, which helps, but doesn’t do much in the way of providing actual exercise. One great alternative is switching from coffee or conference room meetings to walking meetings. Instead of sitting in the office, discuss business over a 20-30 minute walk. Not everyone will take you up on the offer, but a good number will. Every added spurt of exercise can change your life for the better.
In their book Connected, James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis present their theory that our personal “networks” affect everything in our lives. For example, if your co-worker’s cousin on the other side of the country gains weight, you’re more likely to do the same. It works in the reverse, as well. So if you lose weight, that same co-worker’s cousin on the other side of the country is likely to lose weight as well.
There are a few things to be said about having walking meetings rather than office or lunch meetings. For one, many report that they can more easily focus on the subject matter, as they’re not drifting off or becoming bored. Second, mobile devices stay out of the picture. It’s much harder to casually check your phone while on a brisk walk than while sitting at a table. And lastly, it inspires creative thinking. Sometimes stepping away from your monotonous work environment is just what you need to spark the creative solution you’ve been looking for.