The biggest health hazard you're up against just might be a chair -- or a couch or recliner -- and all the time you spend sitting in it.
Desk jobs, long commutes, too much TV time -- all that inactivity our daily routines dictate -- is about as bad for us and as fattening as a steady diet of bacon and bread. And despite what you might think, slipping on sneaks for daily sweat sessions alone isn't enough to combat the slow slide toward sickness. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who sat for more than 6 hours each day had a 37 percent increased risk of premature death, compared with women who sat for less than 3--regardless of how often they hopped on a treadmill.
Nearly all of us are at risk. The average American spends more than 8 hours each day with his or her rear glued to a desk chair, car seat, or couch, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Just like a car that idles so long its engine stalls, your metabolism puts on the brakes when you lead a sedentary lifestyle, says Dr. James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. The moment you go from walking slowly to sitting, your active calorie-burn rate drops from roughly 3 per minute to 1. Meanwhile, your triglyceride and blood sugar levels rise. Over time, sitting for hours every day causes your levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL) to fall and puts you at risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of cancers.
100 Ways to Stand Up For Your Health
1. Hide your remote. If you must watch TV, at least stand up to change the channel.
2. When cooking or baking, ditch the hand mixer and use a wooden spoon instead.
3. Take each family member's laundry upstairs separately.
4. When tidying up, put things away in multiple small trips rather than one big haul.
5. Chop fresh vegetables instead of buying frozen ones.
6. Invest in quality pots and pans; the heavier they are, the more energy it'll take to use them.
7. Paint, hang curtains, or finish any other home-improvement task on your to-do list.
8. Stand up and march during your favorite TV shows.
9. Rather than yell toward family members in other rooms, walk over to talk.
10. Stand while styling your hair and putting on makeup.
11. Walk around your home, yard, or neighborhood while on the phone.
12. Hand-wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher.
13. Wash your car instead of taking it through the car wash.
14. Put most-used items on top or bottom shelves so you have to reach for them.
15. Leave your cell phone in one location, so when you need it, you must go to it.
16. Start a compost pile in your yard.
17. Help your kids clean their rooms.
18. Organize a closet.
19. Rake the leaves as a family.
20. Give the delivery guy a break; when you order food in, pick it up yourself.
21. Take a shower instead of a bath.
22. Walk to the mailbox instead of checking the mail from your car.
23. Plant or weed a garden or care for indoor plants.
24. Ask for the paper to be left at the end of your driveway instead of by your front door.
25. Give your dog a bath instead of paying someone else to do it.
26. Instead of sitting and reading, listen to books on tape as you walk, clean, or garden.
27. Preset the timer on your TV to turn off after an hour to remind you to do something more active.
28. Slide a small trampoline under your couch and pull it out for Real Housewives marathons.
29. Put up more Christmas lights.
30. The next time it snows, up your karma and shovel your neighbor's sidewalk too.
31. Turn on tunes and dance while cooking.
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32. Drink lots of water. (You'll stand up for refills and trips to the bathroom.)
33. Hover just above your chair in a squat position for 15 seconds every hour.
34. Keep a small water glass, which you must refill often, instead of a large water bottle on your desk.
35. Stand up each time you talk on the phone.
36. Schedule meetings to take place in far-off conference rooms.
37. Buy a plant for your office--watering it will make you more active.
38. Set your computer alarm to ring hourly--stand up for 1 to 5 minutes each time it goes off.
39. Walk your lunch outside or to another location in the office instead of sitting and eating at your desk.
40. Invest in a standing desk like the Ergotron WorkFit-S ($379; ergotron.com)--or get crafty and raise your monitor and keyboard with books.
41. Purchase an under-desk pedaling machine, like the Stamina 15-0125 Instride Folding Cycle ($70; stamina products.com).
42. When you need to brainstorm, do it while walking.
43. Dust your office weekly.
44. Walk around the block once mid-morning and once midafternoon.
45. Make friends with someone on another floor; visit her often.
46. Stand while you open and read your mail.
47. Wear comfortable shoes (or keep flats under your desk) so you walk more.
48. Get rid of your garbage can; walk trash to the kitchen bin.
49. Use the vending machine three floors up--and take the stairs.
50. Swap your desk chair for a stability ball--then gently bounce on it.
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