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Sitting is the new smoking – but a new app can help you break the habit

We are all aware that certain environmental factors can significantly raise our cancer risk. Radiation, hazardous chemicals, asbestos, smoke and other airborne pollutants are all widely recognised dangers – and while few of us encounter these in our daily working lives, we know they are not to be tackled without adequate protection.

Many of us are also up to speed on the ways lifestyle may contribute to cancer risk. We know, for example, that habits such as smoking, eating a poor diet, failing to exercise regularly and drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol are bad for us.

One of the most dangerous habits, however, is something that very few of us are aware of – yet nearly all of us do it.

Evidence from the US shows that simply sitting for prolonged periods increases cancer risk – so much so that it has led to the claim that “sitting is the new smoking”. In a report published in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the highest levels of sedentary behaviour were compared to the lowest, and researchers found a statistically significantly higher risk for three types of cancer – colon, endometrial, and lung cancer. Moreover, the risk increased with each two-hour increase in sitting time – 8% for colon cancer, 10% for endometrial cancer, and 6% for lung cancer.

So significant is this danger that the World Health Organisation has now identified inactivity as the fourth leading cause of death, with an estimated 3.2 million losing their lives globally to the effects of sedentary lifestyles.

More than half of the average person’s day is spent sitting – whether as a result of working at a desk, driving long distances or commuting to work – and with most professional people’s lives focusing more than ever around computer use, sedentary behaviour is becoming increasingly widespread. We may not be going to work down mines, but it seems a cosy office can still be a hazardous environment.

Fortunately, the solution is a simple one. Regular stretching or walking for just a few minutes at a time can keep our bodies fresh and keep our minds alert, and make us more productive into the bargain. To help achieve that, BowelHealth UK has created a tiny Windows app called StandUp. StandUp is a free Windows app that takes up minimal system resource and reminds users to stand up, walk a bit or stretch at regular intervals. Once the app is installed, it sits in your system tray and watches the clock for you. It is automatically set to remind you to stand up and move every 60 minutes, but you can choose any interval between 5 and 120 minutes.

Gordon Wishart, Professor of Cancer Surgery and Chief Medical Officer of Check4Cancer comments: “Often it’s our habits that create health problems for us – smoking, eating badly or drinking too much. Habits can be hard to break, but what this simple app aims to do is help people substitute a positive habit for a negative one. I’m sure we all know what it is like to be up against a deadline – to think we will just do one more thing, only to realise that we have not moved from our seat for hours. Good intentions can so easily be swept aside by the pressures of work, but this simple app can help to establish moving and stretching as a habit, building it into your work routine to make you feel better and work better.

Launched on 1 April to mark the beginning of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, StandUp Reminder is available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 (Desktop mode only).

You can download the app FREE at: https://www.bowelhealthuk.com/stand-up-reminder

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