The American Institute for Cancer Research has a nice infographic on how increasing your routine daily activity can reduce your risk of getting cancer.
Perhaps the most interesting and encouraging evidence behind this graph is how little you may need to do during the work day to reduce your cancer risk. Neville Owen, Head of Behavioral Epidemiology at Australia’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, says that breaks of as little as one or two minutes per hour can reduce waist circumference, insulin resistance, inflammation, and other biomarkers of cancer risk.
Dr. Owen, in an AICR news release on the hazards of sitting, reiterates the oft-repeated finding that sitting is an independent risk factor for disease. “Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk. This phenomenon isn’t dependent on body weight or how much exercise people do.” Even if you eat right and work out regularly, you will still have an increased risk for cancer if you sit all day.
It may sound unlikely that an intervention as simple as standing up could reduce your risk of a major disease like cancer, but this observation lines up with NASA research that found that simply standing up every 20 minutes effectively reversed many of the physiological effects of sedentary behavior. Joan Vernikos, the former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, told me that she is convinced that it’s the simply act of changing your posture that helps. Routinely interrupting your sitting posture signals your body that you’re up and about, triggering physiology that flicks off the “sitting disease” switch for the next 20 minutes or so.
Whether it’s every 20 minutes, as NASA would recommend, or once an hour, as the AICR suggests, simply getting up on a regular basis can help you stay healthier at work.
Office Fitness Tip: Set a reminder in your calendar right now to remind you to get up every 20 to 30 minutes during the work day for a minute or two. You can also make it a habit to stand up whenever you answer the phone or talk with a colleague. Better yet, see if your boss will order you a standing desk (ideally a height-adjustable sit-stand desk) or even a treadmill desk so you can work while walking.
But, as this research shows, even if your parsimonious boss won’t buy you a more active workstation, you can still reduce your risk of getting cancer by simply standing up for as little as a minute or two every hour.