Are you sitting at your computer as you read this? If so, stand up and stretch – we’ll still be here when you get back…
Congratulations, you just took a step to improve your health! Growing amounts of research suggest that extended periods of time spent sitting (think: sitting in class and doing homework, checking Facebook, watching Netflix) increase your risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes, and may contribute to an over-all shorter lifespan. When you sit, many metabolic processes that keep your arteries healthy and your blood sugar at normal levels significantly decrease, adding up to higher risk over time. Plus, it seems that high levels of physical activity don’t offset the effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle — people who exercise for an hour but sit for the rest of the day are still at risk.
So, what’s a college student to do? You don’t have much choice about the fact that large amounts of your day are spent in class and doing homework. Sitting less and moving more just might require a little creativity.
- Take short breaks to stand up and walk around. If you’re sitting at the computer for long periods of time, get up every 20 minutes to walk around the room or do a few stretches.
- Skip the bus. If you are close enough to walk to class, to the store, or to Franklin Street, leave a few minutes earlier than usual and get some activity while getting where you need to go.
- Instead of meeting a friend for coffee, suggest a walk instead. Grab your coffee to go and take a stroll around campus while catching up on each other’s lives.
- And, my personal favorite… Create your own stand-up desk! Put your computer on the kitchen counter or any empty shelf/ledge where you can stand comfortably with your forearms close to parallel to the floor. If you need to add extra height, try placing a few books or an empty box beneath your computer. And, you’ll be in good company – many famous figures from history were known for using stand-up desks, including Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and my fellow Virginian – Thomas Jefferson!
So, next time you find yourself sitting for long periods of time, stand up, move around, and feel good knowing that you’re choosing a healthier future!
Matthews, et al. (2012) Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr, 95(2):437-45.
Rhodes, et al. (2012) Adult sedentary behavior: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med; 42(3):e3-28.