The next time someone asks you to take a seat, say no. It could be fatal. Besides shaving off two years of your life, studies conducted across the world—from the World Health Organisation to Chennai-based MV Hospital—state that sitting for more than three hours can make you prone to cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. “When your energy expenditure is less, it leads to fat accumulation in the wrong places, like the liver and other internal organs, leading to insulin resistance. And this is the root cause of diabetes, coronary heart disease and even cancer,” says Dr Vijay Viswanathan, head and chief diabetologist, MV Hospital. But even as sitting is being called ‘the new smoking’, the good news is that taking mobility breaks (just standing or walking) every 30 minutes can help counteract some of this. To start off, experts suggest simple things: stand up and take a look around the office, walk while on the phone, and instead of emailing, go over and talk to your colleague. “I make it a point to get up every half hour and have a quick chat with someone at work,” says Freddy Koikaran, founder of theatre company Stagefright and Jumpstart Creative Consultancy. Read on for more tips on how to take a stand on your health.
Ask the doctor
If you have a family history of diabetes and sit for prolonged hours, here’s a quick way to check if you need to start getting active. Measure your belly; if it is more than 90 cm in men and 80 cm in women, there is a high probability you could turn diabetic. “I would suggest being physically active for 45 minutes before and after work. And while in office, take the stairs, walk to the water cooler often or take a quick walk around your building at lunch,” says Dr Viswanathan.
‘Workplace Popcorn’ is a popular concept abroad. It keeps you focussed and mobile. Here’s how: create a to-do list for the day, divide it into three sections, pick three locations to work from (office, cafe, etc) and just keep moving.
Heading out for a night on the town needn’t see you sitting down, sipping martinis. Especially if you are at F Bar & Lounge. Its policy of ‘buying tables’—a steep proposition—is the best incentive to remain standing at the bar.
“Every half an hour, do a few squats to strengthen your glutes. If that is too embarrassing for the workplace, keep it really basic—just stand up and sit down 10 times. Another great alternative is every time you see a wall, place your elbow on it and twist around as if someone is calling you from the other side. This helps the curved spine. Also stand up, bend your knee and pull your heel towards
your butt. This lengthens the thigh muscles to counterbalance all that sitting.”
Blue Movement Circle
“A few times during the day, get up and stand facing the back of your chair. Then bend over, drop your shoulders over the chair, and let your arms hang free by your side—like you’d hang a coat. Hold it for 40 seconds. This stretches the neck and shoulders, where we carry a lot of tension. You can also make it fun by asking a colleague to join you. Stand back-to-back and while one bends forward, the other must lean backward. Hold for 20 seconds and then switch.”
“I call this the desk hip saver. Stand a couple of inches away from your desk or chair, put one leg up on it, with the shin perpendicular to your torso. Hold the position for three minutes per side, a few times a day. This helps stretch the glutes and counteracts some of the damage of sitting all day. You must also concentrate on your breathing. Stand with your back straight, put your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and breathe slowly through your nose. This gives you a good mental break.”
Mapping the workplace
Ideally, all offices must incorporate spaces that encourage people to be more active. Like Cobalt, a co-working space in the city, started by Naresh V Narasimhan, the principal architect of Venkataramanan Associates. “We’ve designed the space with careful carelessness. As you make your way through it, there are a lot of spaces that create opportunities for accidental meet-ups—like the coffee machine that has deliberately been placed in a corner,” he says, adding, “We have private, community and solo workspaces, including stand-up meeting rooms.”