- Scientific research has proven beyond reasonable doubt that traditional 9-to-5 jobs and any other roles entailing desk work all day wreak havoc on metabolic health.
- Work that involves sitting all day greatly contributes to high cholesterol, lowered insulin sensitivity, atherosclerosis, and various other metabolic problems that lead to conditions like diabetes.
- Research shows that effective strategies to mitigate the risk of these conditions include regular exercise, a nutritious diet, good sleep hygiene, making sure to stand up frequently throughout the day, and minimizing the amount of time spent sitting down.
Those who work 9-to-5 jobs and other desk jobs sit down for 6 to 12 hours each day. While the metabolic effects of desk work have not been directly studied, the consequences on metabolic health of sitting down excessively have been studied for decades.
Much of this research does not paint a flattering picture of traditional 9-to-5 work, especially for a generation that is unique in its valuation of physical and mental health.
Work shifts that require heavy amounts of sitting cause our muscles to produce less of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL).
LPL is responsible for removing fat from the blood and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. When LPL levels drop, it can increase the risk of developing high cholesterol, triglycerides, and atherosclerosis.
Another implication of desk work is that muscles become less sensitive to the hormone known as insulin. Decreased insulin sensitivity can drastically increase the likelihood of developing type-II diabetes.
The top 5 best ways to prevent the metabolic health consequences of desk work.
The human body evolved such that we have the highest levels of endurance among all animals. In other words, our bodies are meant to move — walking dozens of miles each week was, at some point in human history, the gold standard of survival.
Now, work is the gold standard of survival — if we don’t work, we don’t make money; and if we don’t make money, we cannot pay for food or rent. In modern times, work is tied to the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and most work is desk work.
However, this does not mean it’s wise to ignore what the body has evolved to do — especially when science tells us that such negligence can wreak havoc on our metabolic health.
Here are the top five best ways you can prevent desk work from negatively impacting metabolic health:
1. Regular exercise
Exercising vigorously (running, lifting weights, playing sports, or doing just about anything to get your heart pumping hard) three to five times a week for 40 to 60 minutes per exercise session has been shown to reverse many metabolic issues associated with desk work.
Specifically, research shows that such an exercise routine massively boosts levels of lipoprotein lipase, drastically decreasing the likelihood of developing high cholesterol, triglycerides, or atherosclerosis.
Regular exercise increases LPL nearly eight times above the “healthy” baseline, which brings with it its own unique health benefits, such as an additional boost in performance during exercise.
2. Eat a nutritious diet
A diet that consists of many fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein, and foods with high levels of vitamins and minerals is what contributes to a nutritious diet.
In addition to drinking a cup of water each hour per day, a nutritious diet can boost metabolism, in part because optimal metabolism function depends partially on ensuring that we have no micronutrient (i.e. vitamin and mineral) deficiencies.
3. Take time to stand up and move around each day
A major issue with 9-to-5 work is that it involves sitting all day. But a manager seldom would be so obtuse as to scold an employee for getting up each hour to walk around and stretch their legs.
Especially in the name of health, taking 10-15 minutes each hour of the work day to stand up and move around a bit can help prevent developing metabolic maladaptation from desk work.
4. Minimize general sitting time
Even outside of work, it is not a good habit to sit down for 6 to 8 hours a stretch. There is something intrinsically unhealthy about such an activity that it reliably leads to metabolic health problems.
The importance of standing up and moving each hour should extend into your time outside of work as well as during work hours.
5. Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
There is perhaps nothing more metabolically damaging to your health than poor sleep habits and/or sleep quality.
Losing out on sleep, which can include under-sleeping (less than 7 hours a night) or over-sleeping (more than 9 hours per night), is extremely damaging to metabolic health and cardiovascular health. Sleeping 7-8 hours a night is imperative for maintaining metabolic health.