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Studies suggest regular exercise, planning meals, and a consistent bedtime routine could reduce your risk of developing a deadly disease.

At a glance:

  • Sitting at a desk all day is having an adverse impact on our health and well-being
  • Regular exercise, a bedtime routine, and planning healthy meals can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases

Sitting at a desk all day could be killing us

Unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors from eons ago, we spend most of our day sitting down which is negatively impact our health.

“In recent years, studies suggest physical inactivity may increase your risk of developing several chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and the inactivity also affects your cognitive abilities,” says Michael Wheeler, a PhD candidate involved in the Brain Breaks project. As part of his PhD, Michael Wheeler investigates the impact of prolonged sitting on brain function in older and overweight adults.

“Studies indicate that we should avoid prolonged bouts of sitting, combined with regular exercise, to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases,” says Michael.

In an ideal world, Michael recommends breaking up your daily sitting routine with regular light-intensity walking breaks, and a single 30-minute workout of moderate intensity.

“This routine might take a bit to get used to, but it could make a big difference to your health,” he says.

But, changing your working habits is only part of the equation. You should also think about the food you eat and how much you sleep at night.

Have a bedtime routine and get a good night of sleep

Chronic lack of sleep is linked to a myriad of diseases such as heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.

“Take your sleep seriously,” suggests Dr Jennifer Walsh, a Research Fellow & Lecturer at UWA. “The importance of sleep is highlighted by the fact that we can go without food for weeks, but we cannot stay awake for longer than a few days,” says Dr Walsh.

To improve sleep quality, Dr Walsh recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time. You should also avoid vigorous exercise just before going to bed, wind down and relax, and try to avoid drinking coffee or alcohol in the afternoon or evening, explains Dr Walsh.

Finally, it is important to make your bedroom an ideal place to sleep. “Avoid bright lights including screens for at least one hour before bed, and make sure your bedroom is quiet and at a comfortable temperature,” says Dr Walsh.

Plan your meals

Many health problems stem from an unhealthy diet, says Associate Professor Gina Ambrosini Associate Professor at UWA’s School of Population Health and Lead researcher of the Nutrition & Health Research Group.

“Planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner can avoid poor dietary choices driven by hunger, lack of time and eating on the run,” says Associate Professor Ambrosini.

For starters, be sure to have a good start in the morning. Skipping breakfast can lead to high levels of hunger and poor food choices during the day as a consequence. A simple wholemeal cereal, along with some milk, yogurt, and fresh fruit makes a great start, says Associate Professor Ambrosini.

During the day, drink lots of water and avoid as much sugar as possible, as sugar consumption can increase your risk of becoming overweight and getting diabetes, says Associate Professor Ambrosini. Also, try to reduce your meat consumption and increase your vegetables.

“Consuming a more plant-based diet reduces your salt and fat intake and increase your fibre, vitamin, and mineral intakes; consequently it also reduces the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and bowel cancer,” she adds.

Finally, don’t forget your calcium. Men and women need about two and a half serves of dairy to meet their calcium requirements and reduce their chances of developing osteoporosis. If you cannot consume milk products, go for dairy-free options such calcium-enriched soy drinks, almonds or tofu, says Associate Professor Ambrosini.