Sitting disease may sound overly sensational but the term, used as a catch-all for the many health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, effectively names a condition affecting the health of most Canadians today. Statistics Canada has found that the average Canadian adult spends 10 hours of their waking lives, each day, either sitting or reclining. This inactivity is believed to be a major contributor to the skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases prevalent in Canada. Researchers have found direct links between physical inactivity and an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

Add to that the negative effects of workplace stress and you have the makings for an unhealthy life. Research has shown that workplace stress can manifest in both physical and emotional health problems such as fatigue, nausea, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and depression.

Small habits, big benefits

The good news is that developing small but effective habits can bring huge benefits to both your mental and physical wellbeing.

The most important thing you can do for your health is to become more active. We all know that we should exercise frequently but what you might not know is that even small changes in how you are active can make a big difference. Regularly standing up or walking whenever you take a phone call or skim your newsfeed can have surprising health benefits. Other life-hacks that can contribute to better health are taking the stairs instead of the elevator, setting a reminder to stand up from your desk once every hour, and even walking to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing them.

“The muscle group we use when we stand or walk is enough to stop sitting disease, we just need to use it more,” says Laura Weyland, Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist and certified diabetes educator. “Changing your position frequently is key.”

"Beyond developing healthy workplace habits, it is also important to get 150 minutes of exercise each week in order to combat stress and inactivity."

Beyond developing healthy workplace habits, it is also important to get 150 minutes of exercise each week in order to combat stress and inactivity. Any exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat such as swimming, soccer, dancing, or yoga works to increase your energy, beat the blues,  and relax your mind and body.

Keep track of your health

Monitoring your activity is an excellent way to stay on top of your wellbeing and spot areas of your life which may need some attention.
“When you track your footsteps, for instance, it can be surprising to learn that on some days you’re actually quite inactive,” says Weyland. “Once you have that information, it doesn’t take too much of an effort to get your steps in.”

Making small changes in your workplace today can lead to a longer and healthier life for you and your loved ones.