This New Year, resolve to get off your butt

By Dick Resch Published:

What was your New Year’s resolution? If you’re like most Americans, you probably promised to lose weight, quit smoking or live a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, your odds of failing are high. Just 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually succeed. Studies show that it’s almost impossible to alter your daily routine by sheer force of will.

So what can you do if you’re part of the 92 percent of people without Herculean willpower? How can you successfully make a healthy lifestyle change in 2013?

The answer might surprise you. And it’s to start with a micro-adjustment in your existing routine -- one that’s guaranteed to improve your health and costs nothing. And one you can be doing right now.

It’s called standing. That’s right -- standing. And it’s something we should all do more of this year.

Believe it or not, sitting is hazardous to our health. Yet many Americans sit for the bulk of the day -- whether at work, in a car or on the couch watching a movie or a ballgame.

Not only does sitting slow our metabolism, it’s been linked to a higher incidence of everything from heart attacks and diabetes to kidney disease and cancer. Over time, just two hours of sitting per day can drop good cholesterol by 20 percent and reduce blood flow.

There’s a direct link between the rise of sedentary jobs — up 83 percent since 1950 —and the increase in obesity in America. More than a third of adults are now classified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our newfound idleness is actually shaving years off our lives. A recent study found that men who spent more than 10 hours a week in a car had an astonishing 82 percent greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease. And according to an American Cancer Society, women who sit for more than six hours a day are 37 percent more likely to die than their counterparts who sit for less than three hours a day.

If people sat less than three hours a day, U.S. life expectancy would increase by two years.

Indeed, we might call sitting the new smoking. According to Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, the risk of heart attack for people who sit most of the day is the same as for smokers.

The standard prescription for obesity — more exercise — may not help, as even regular gym-goers aren’t immune to the negative health effects of sitting. Genevieve Healy, a research fellow at the Cancer Prevention Research Centre of the University of Queensland in Australia, has calculated that a 30-minute session at the gym isn’t enough to undo the damage of sitting down for a full workday.

Fortunately, the fix for sitting too much is easy — simply stand up.

It starts with being mindful of how much we sit — and looking for opportunities to stand during our daily routines. This could mean staying on our feet while enjoying morning coffee, reading the newspaper, or talking on the phone.

In places where sitting is necessary -- such as the office -- keep an eye on the clock, and be sure to stand up and walk around at regular intervals.

Bosses can implement standing meetings. Not only are such on-your-feet conclaves healthier for all involved -- they’re often shorter, too.

Companies might consider offering height-adjustable sit/stand desks for interested employees. If such desks were good enough for Leonardo da Vinci, Donald Rumsfeld and Winston Churchill, they’re good enough for Americans in 2013.

And they’re healthier, too. A 200-pound man can burn nearly 30 percent more calories by standing rather than sitting during a normal workday.

Indeed, the CDC found that workers who had access to standing workstations experienced dramatic decreases in neck and back pain and an improved mood.

High-top tables in the company cafeteria can also transform a formerly sedentary activity -- lunch -- into a healthy one. They can also encourage more socializing among employees than the conventional lunch table.

Those discouraged by the failure of previous New Year’s resolutions should resist the urge to sit this year out. Standing up is a simple way to live healthier in 2013. All we need to do is get off our butts.

Dick Resch is the chief executive officer of contract furniture manufacturer KI, which manufactures innovative furniture, height-adjustable desking and movable wall system solutions for education, health care, government and corporate markets (www.ki.com).

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