It's not news that the time we spend in our office chairs isn't the greatest: We've read articles likening sitting to smoking; studies that show how sitting is effing up our digestive systems, raising our risk of cancer, and causing all manners of heart problems. In short, sitting is literally killing us, and we already knew this—but we were also under the impression that staying fairly active outside of work was working in our favor in this regard. Oh, how naive we were.
Some very depressing new science—the results of 47 studies, to be exact—shows that even athletes can't counteract the side effects of spending prolonged periods on their derrières. (And speaking of side effects, the studies also showed that remaining sedentary for roughly 12 hours of the day gives us a 90 percent more chance of developing type 2 diabetes.) An even more mind-blowing fact: Sedentary behavior is now being pegged as the fourth leading cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
But here's the thing: Aside from, um, quitting our jobs, what is the alternative? Let's consider:
1. The treadmill desk.
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Pros: It has some much more upbeat science in its corner: Research shows that making your desk mobile has the exact opposite effect as sitting—increasing lifespan, burning more calories (obviously), and curbing blood sugar spikes and fat gain. It's even been shown to decrease stress and bolster productivity. (Plus, Victoria Beckham makes it look chic as hell.)
Cons: Unless you have your own office or all of your coworkers are willing to swap their desks for treadmills, it could prove a bit distracting for other parties. It's also expensive, and we can't help but wonder if it takes some coordination? (If you try it, please don't do it in heels.)
2. The exercise ball.
Pros: It's fun to bounce all day—and in theory, it's supposed to work your core more than just sitting there.
Cons: The benefits of replacing your office chair with a yoga ball have been largely debunked. It's still sitting, after all, and it really doesn't do much for your abs. The silver lining (ish) is that you'll burn about four more calories per hour, but you'll do even better if you keep your desk chair, sidestep the hassle, and just commit to taking a lap around the office every 60 minutes.
3. The standing desk.
Pros: You're still pretty sedentary, but many of those nasty side effects to sitting reduce drastically or flat out disappear when you stand. Plus, when you're already upright, you're more likely to pace or walk around.
Cons: This also relies on an office space that will accommodate it. Plus, one writer who tried it out discovered a body change she hadn't bargained for: cankles.
So there are options, but they aren't great ones. All we can really suggest is to make a pact with yourself to move when you can: Get up from your desk every hour and take a lap; turn those meetings into walking meetings whenever possible; eat your lunch on the go. And for the love of God, do not stop exercising—it might not mean a lot for our sitting problem, but it counteracts about a million other health problems. But meanwhile, dear scientists, since it's pretty freaking clear that YES, OKAY, SITTING IS TERRIBLE, can we get to researching some viable alternatives?
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