We all know that exercise makes us healthier by lowering our risk of heart disease or improving our mental heath. However, there’s a health risk you’re probably taking everyday and are completely unaware of it. It can increase your risk of diseases and however much exercise you take part in, isn’t going to help. What is it?

Sitting, yes the office chair, the driver’s seat or the couch all pose a risk. Sitting has been referred to as the new smoking and it’s important we’re aware of the effect it may be having on our health. The NHS guidelines for physical activity is currently to take part in 150 minutes of moderate activity every week. The guidelines also say that we need to spend less time being sedentary to decrease our risk of type 2 diabetes as well as other diseases.

The Science

Most of the major diseases such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes are in part caused by a low level of inflammation that’s going on in our body. Anything that causes inflammation in our body will increase the risks. The mitochondria in our cells turn the food we eat into energy for our body to use. Some cells, i.e those that are in the muscles are packed with mitochondria and constantly turning food into energy in the anticipation that it will be used. If we don’t use it, a charge builds up in the cell and the energy is released in the form of free radicals. Free radicals are harmful, they change the cells DNA, which can lead to the cell dying early and inflammation. This can be avoided by moving every twenty minutes and using the energy thus not allowing the charge to build up.

One of the other things that cause inflammation is visceral fat, the fat we carry around our organs. This fat is far more dangerous that the fat we carry under our skin. Visceral fat is very receptive to physical activity so the more active we are the less visceral fat we carry. It’s difficult to tell by the naked eye how much visceral fat a person is carrying, a slim person may carry a high proportion and on the flip side, a large person may have a small amount of visceral fat. Sitting for long periods of time disrupts the metabolism and it’s way of using sugars and fat. The secret is to move more, even if you don’t loose weight you’ll reduce inflammation and make you healthier. In addition, when you move your muscles release Myokines which are a natural anti-inflammatory. Prolonged sitting weakens the muscles, especially the glutes (bottom). Now you know it’s important to keep moving throughout the day, take a look at my top tips:

1. Use an app to remind you to move around every 20/30 minutes.
2. Try working standing up or invest in a standing desk.
3. Put your printer and your bin on the other side of the room so you have to get up to get to them.
4. Get up and speak to a colleague rather than email them.
5. Stand up for all or part of meetings.
6. Arrange walking meetings, record the notes.
7. Use a fitness tracker to keep a record of your daily steps.
8. Use the stairs not the lift.
9. Use your lunch break to go for a walk/run.
10. Walk, run or cycle to work/school.
11. Sign up to the workplace challenge – challenge.org.uk or take part in the golden boot challenge when taking children to school.