Ditch Digging – Not Such a Bad Career Choice After All

Who would have thought that well educated professionals could end up wondering whether ditch digging, or any other unpleasant sounding type of manual labor, might have been a better career choice? Not me. But now there seems to be a reason for white collar workers to be at least a little envious of those who work at physically demanding jobs. A growing body of research indicates that people who work at jobs that require moving around throughout the day tend to live longer, with fewer health setbacks, than those whose jobs require that they sit for eight hours or more, five days a week.

A 2007 study done by researchers at the University of Missouri found that people who spend the most time doing “non-exercise” activities burn significantly more calories per week than those whose jobs require little or no movement but who spend about an hour per day at the gym. In other words, going to the gym or for a jog will not counteract the negative effects of sitting if that’s how you spend most of your day. And the tendency to gain weight over time isn’t the only problem faced by office workers. Researchers have learned that one of the genes responsible for heart disease does not respond positively to exercise no matter how hard, or often, you work out. To make matters worse, this potentially dangerous gene becomes more active when too much time is spent in a chair or on a couch. So, even though a morning boot camp or an evening trip to the gym is beneficial for many reasons, these short bouts of physical activity are not enough to protect your good health if you’re required to sit all day.

It’s not surprising, then, that the best way to reduce the likelihood that too much sitting will have negative health consequences is to spend a greater percentage of your waking hours on your feet. Since there are few jobs that actually require someone to remain seated for hours at a time, it’s possible for most of us to stand up and move around more frequently than we do. Phone calls can often be made while standing, sometimes an email to a co-worker can be replaced with a short walk to convey information face to face, and there’s usually no good reason to choose the elevator over the stairs. Figuring out how to spend less time sitting may require some creativity on your part, but it’s worth the effort because increasing the time you spend on your feet may actually add years to your life!