“Wanna take a sit break?” said no desk-bound employee, ever. Most of corporate America is already sitting for eight to 10 hours daily, so instead, we stretch our legs, step out for air, or take a walk around the block. Basically, we do anything we can to get the blood moving, because sitting all day leaves us feeling lethargic and just plain bad. Which makes a lot of sense considering being glued to a chair is slowly, but surely, eroding our health—and making us sick and fat in the process.
Science backs this up: Prolonged sitting has been linked to everything from increased hunger and inflammation (which both lead to obesity and belly fat) to high blood pressure and high blood sugar. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” now you know where it stems from. But the damage doesn’t stop there. In addition to these preventable diseases, spending too much time on your behind can also result in tight hip flexors, back pain, weak glutes, and rounded, sore shoulders which are all things that can decrease the effectiveness of your workout or lead to a disabling injury, says Piya Tony Vacharasanee, NASM, ACSM, of Body Space Fitness in New York City. All that from an innocent-looking swivel chair.
Getting off your tush and moving around is a vital part of the puzzle. Whether you’re at the office or on your couch, Vacharasanee suggests taking a “walk break” every half hour. Head to the bathroom, grab a green tea, go wherever you want (except for maybe the vending machine)—just move. Even fidgeting and stretching your arms and legs in your seat helps improve the tissue quality of tight muscles, returning them to their natural state, Vacharasanee says.
But tweaking your diet may also help diminish some of the health risks associated with sitting. A number of nutrients have been shown to fight inflammation by “turning off” inflammatory genes. Add these recommended foods that follow into your diet to help ease some of the damage of your 9-to-5 and you’ll be on your way to a leaner, healthier you.