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Your lifestyle, your quirk
Bad news, America: there’s a new reason to hate your desk job. A study published in the online journal BMJ Open reported that sitting down for more than three hours a day can take two years off a person's life expectancy! Think you’re not at risk because you exercise and refrain from naughty habits like smoking? Think again. And to make matters worse, watching TV for more than two hours a day can decrease your life expectancy by another 1.4 years, according to the report.
The report analyzed data from five studies of nearly 167,000 people over a range of four to 14 years. The findings are supported by Australian researchers who previously found that people who watched TV for more than four hours a day were also 80% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
"Sedentary behavior is something we need to take note of beyond telling people to get 30 minutes of activity a day," said Peter T. Katzmarzyk, one of the lead researchers for the study and a professor of population science at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
These findings leave little doubt that sedentary behavior can have some seriously nasty health effects. When you're sitting and completely inactive, “you run into trouble managing blood glucose,” a researcher said. But people who work desk jobs often have little choice.
Try to be as active as possible at work – whether that means taking phone calls standing or running a couple laps around the parking lot a few times a day (heck, if smokers can take breaks to go outside, why can’t the rest of us!). There are also simple exercises you can do throughout the day from the convenience of your desk. Mark Beier, personal-training manager at Crunch Fitness Center, has some suggestions: "Stand facing your desk chair. Bend at the waist and grab the arms of the chair. Keeping your abs tight, arms slightly bent and your back nice and flat, slowly pick the chair up off the ground." Aim for two sets of 20 of these.
Mike Ryan, strength trainer and cardio expert for Gold's Gym Fitness Institute, suggests doing squats by standing with your feet wider apart than your hips, toes facing forward, he says. "Push your hips back to shift your body weight on your heels instead of your toes. Lean forward 45 degrees as you lower your hips to knee level. Keep your abs tight and rib cage high. Wiggle your toes—your weight should be on your heels. Keep your knees above your ankles. Squeeze your butt to stand." Repeat eight to 15 times.
Grace Lazenby, an L.A.-based celebrity trainer and fitness expert for livestrong.com, recommends lower body lifts. Sit up straight in your chair and extend your right leg forward. Lift it off the chair and hold for 10 seconds, and then relax. Repeat six times on each leg. Your boss will never know you're doing it!
If you feel a little weird trying to work an exercise routine into your workday, get the whole office involved! Set fitness challenges or health goals so the whole office will get in on the fun – and live longer, too! Make office fitness the new norm.