Our Sedentary Situation

May 8, 2019 by Daniel Brandley

If we could look back a hundred or so years, we would likely be surprised at the vast changes that have occurred in human activity. In this short time, humans have become increasingly less active due to advances in technology such as cars, computers, and televisions. While technology undoubtedly improves our lives in many ways, it also significantly reduces the need for us to move. This lack of movement is harmful and has led to our current “sedentary situation.”

Research suggests that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of many increasingly common health conditions including heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, arthritis, and some cancers. Additionally, extended time spent doing sedentary tasks, such as sitting at a desk all day, has independent health risks even if you exercise regularly. Regular exercise is very important, but moving throughout the day is also vital to staying healthy.

Work is the most sedentary environment for many of us. In some occupations, nearly 80% of working hours are currently spent sedentary. If a typical forty-hour work week is considered, employees can spend approximately 30 hours each week sitting! In addition to the harmful health effects, sedentary employees are often less productive, take more sick days, and have lower job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, for full-time students like me, studying can result in even more time spent sedentary than the typical workplace. Many medical students study more than 40 hours per week. These long hours spent at a desk, whether in a library or classroom, incur the same health risks as those in sedentary workplaces. Fortunately, new technology and revolutionary online education companies, like Osmosis, provide students with new opportunities to study on the move!

I love Osmosis because they provide high-quality videos I can access wherever and whenever I want. I typically watch these on my tablet or phone while I walk outside. This makes studying much more enjoyable, and even helps me remain more alert and focused. In addition, I often walk with other medical students while we quiz each other using flashcards or practice questions. Having these resources provided by Osmosis, and making a conscious effort to move more, has dramatically reduced my sedentary time and made medical school much more enjoyable!

Whether you are a student or employee there are lots of small things you can do to start moving a little more every day. Small changes will help all of us be more productive, healthy, and happy. Here are some simple ways to move more at work and/or school:

  • Walk while watching videos or listening to audio content
  • Hold walking meetings or study groups whenever possible
  • Walk during scheduled breaks and/or lunch
  • Stand up or shift positions often
  • Set reminders to move on your phone or computer
  • Use the stairs instead of taking an elevator
  • Walk while on the phone or whenever other tasks allow

Most important, aim to get up and move at least once every hour. Moving just a little more each day can increase your health and happiness! Whether you are a student or work in a sedentary office, we can all improve this “sedentary situation” and happily reap the many benefits of movement. Good luck!

About Daniel

Daniel is a first year medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He grew up mostly in the small town of West Point, Utah. Daniel plans to do a dual specialty in internal medicine and pediatrics (Med-Peds) and also remain involved in public health promoting healthy lifestyles and preventative medicine. He loves to play all sorts of sports like soccer, basketball, Spikeball, racquetball, pickle-ball, etc. He also loves being outside, hiking or camping, or just enjoying the sun and not studying.