Your after-work exercise isn't enough to counteract an entire day spent sitting at the office as far as your body is concerned. Incorporate micro-bursts of activity throughout your day to counter the effects of extended sitting.
Many people who sit at an office all day do an admirable job squeezing in some workout time before or after work. We applaud them but we've got some bad news. After-work activity doesn't necessarily counter all-day sitting. According to research done by the University of South Carolina and highlighted in the New York Times, a game of tennis and a jog after work every day doesn't undo sitting at your terminal for eight hours.
Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.
What made the difference across the entire group studied? Total level of activity and not necessarily all in one block like a two-hour post-work session at the gym. The healthiest men in the study were the ones who had a job and a lifestyle that encouraged them to do light activity and tasks all day while never sitting for extended periods of time.
So how can you use this knowledge to stay healthy at your desk-bound job? You need to start looking for opportunities to be active. When you take a five- or 10-minute break instead of using that break to do something at your desk use it to get something you need from somewhere else in the building, do a few push ups, run up a few flights of stairs or other activities that trick your body into thinking you're going to do something besides spend the rest of the day making sure the guys from accounting don't come raid your office and steal your monitors. I've always tried to work this kind of activity into my day. At one job I'd run the stairs from my first floor office to the top of the building every hour or two and go from a calm "Hey Phil! How are the kids?" level of activity to "ZOMBIES! RUN!" in a matter of seconds. You can find opportunities for activity everywhere once you're looking for an excuse to get away from your desk and move.
If you've got the liberty to be a little crazy in your office design choices or you work at home a great way to combine work and activity is to build a "treadputer" station. Check out how to build one for $US20 — assuming you have a treadmill already! — here. Have a favourite way to incorporate activity into your day and stave off extended periods of slouching at your desk? Let's hear about it in the comments.
Phys Ed: The Men Who Stare at Screens [The New York Times]