fitness

Sitting is "the new smoking". Here's how to protect yourself from its side-effects.

Image: The Mad Men offices definitely didn’t have treadmill desks…

While you’re probably already aware that sitting on your bum for hours on end is Public Health Enemy #1, there’s a growing body of evidence that is revealing just how damaging it can be.

For instance, it’s been linked to a heightened risk of diabetes, heart disease, different types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity, and can impact on your mental wellbeing. Short-term, you can also end up with a seriously sore back.

RELATED: Forget standing desks. You need a human hamster wheel

More concerning still, sitting can also dramatically increase your risk of dying early — a NSW-based study found adults who sat for more than 11 hours per day were 40 percent more likely to die within three years than their more active counterparts.

That sounds like a lot of hours, but if you work in an office there’s a good chance your sitting tally isn’t far off the mark, especially when you factor in the additional time you spend sitting in the car or train, or perched in front of the TV at night. The average Aussie is estimated to sit for between 8-12 hours a day, so there are certainly a lot of us out there racking up the double digits.

This growing awareness of the perils of sitting has sparked some interesting new office trends, particularly standing desks and their more hardcore cousins, treadmill desks.

Victoria Beckham is a fan of the treadmill desk - and of course she wears high heels while using it.

These desks aren't a new concept — Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill were known to stand as they worked — but we could be seeing more of them in the near future. Sydney chiropractor Dr Hooman Zahedi recently predicted standing desks will be common in city offices in five years' time.

RELATED: 12 ways to get more movement into your day (without actually exercising)

“Already a few of the major banks have introduced standing desks and I think we’ll see them becoming more widespread ... Sitting is the new smoking; it’s the new cancer," he told News Corp.

Another office trend that's getting people up and out of their seats is standing meetings — something we're rather fond of here in The Glow office. There are other benefits, too; meetings are less likely to drag on unnecessarily when you're on your feet, and a study last year found workers were more engaged and less territorial in standing meetings than in seated ones. Big wins all 'round.

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Standing desks are one thing, but this man invented a human hamster wheel.

However, if your workplace is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to these new-wave trends, you're going to have to watch your own back, quite literally, and make an effort to sit less.

Matthew Squires, founder of Physio Gym physiotherapy, recommends these simple tricks as ways to get you moving without you even realising:

RELATED: Make a real difference to your health in less than 6 minutes*

1. Exercise

For every hour you spend sitting, commit to five minutes of exercise — so, if you work 40 hours in a week, do at least 3.5 hours of exercise over that time. Regular workouts will obviously do the trick, but taking a walk around the block, or to the other end of the office to say hi to a far-flung colleague, once an hour can also add up. Hey, it's also a great excuse to go grab a coffee...

2. Stretch

Do regular stretches while sitting at your desk. Neck, shoulder and spinal twists and hip flexor stretches take no time at all, but will help to ward off sore back muscles. Considering half of Squires' clients present with lower back pain, it's a good idea to keep this in mind.

3. Drink up

Water, that is. This isn't an episode of Mad Men.

"Keep a glass of water on your desk, rather than a larger bottle, to force you to get up and refill it," Squires says. The added benefit of doing this, aside from keeping you adequately hydrated, is that you'll also need to go to the bathroom. A lot. And obviously that involves leaving your desk. Genius.

RELATED: A foolproof way to drink more water (and love it)

4. Walk and talk

Even if your superiors aren't planning on stocking up on ergonomic furniture and equipment for the office, suggest they embrace walking meetings. "You'd be surprised how quicker you get through an agenda when you're on your feet," Squires says.

If you're finding you're a bit sore and stiff at the end of the day, there are some stretches you can do at home that'll help stretch you out. Try these five yoga poses, recommended by Rachel Fearnley, retreat manager at Escape Haven Retreat:

Of course, if your back pain is serious you should consult your doctor or physio to find out what can be done to remedy your aches.