Do you have the “sitting disease”? This phrase is the newest way to refer to the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. It’s not surprising that we’ve coined a term for it; an astonishing 86 percent of Americans spend 8 to 10 hours sitting each day. Unfortunately, even the most physically active people may not be able to offset the risks associated with sedentary habits. According to a physician at Mayo Clinic, the risk of heart attack for those who sit for most of the day is roughly the same as those who smoke, even with a few hours of moderate or vigorous exercise each week.
The good news is that moving throughout the day, however leisurely, can be extremely effective against “sitting disease.” Any activity that gets you to stand up or walk around can help trigger important processes that allow your body to break down fats and sugars, contributing to improved health and a possibly even a longer life. Even if your job does not allow for lunchtime walks or standing desks, small changes to your daily routine and environment will enable you to stay active and counteract the effects of sitting.
Stay Mindfully Active
Little things can really make a difference in how much you sit each day. By staying mindful and active, you will stand and walk more often. In addition to 30 minutes of exercise, strive to take around 10,000 steps each day. A fitness tracker or even a simple pedometer can help you track your progress. Here are a few tips to keep you on your feet:
- Take the Stairs: You’ve heard this countless times, but actively choosing the stairs over the elevator can really add up.
- Go the Long Way: Opt for a bathroom on a different floor, or take the scenic route on the way to the mail room.
- Tag Along for Breaks: Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, try to join your co-workers on their breaks. Not only will you make more connections with your office mates, but you’ll also have an excuse to go on frequent walks.
- Park Farther Away: If you’re driving to work or errands, park your car a few blocks away, or at least a little farther away in the parking lot
- Standing Phone Calls: When you can, choose to stand or walk around during phone calls.
- Lose the Remote: Force yourself to stand up to change the channel or volume when watching television.
Find Opportunities to Stand and Walk Around
In addition to adding steps to your daily routine, you should find ways to take longer walks to break up your sedentary day. Lunch is a great time to take a walk, either outdoors, on the treadmill, or around your building. Research shows that a lunchtime walk can improve enthusiasm, promote relaxation, and relieve stress at work. If your schedule does not allow for breaks, you can convert what would have been a seated meeting into a brisk walk. A recent Stanford study found that walking improves creativity by an average of 60 percent, so your mobile meeting may benefit you in more ways than one.
If your commute permits, walking or biking to work is another great excuse to get moving. People who choose a more active mode of transportation get the physical benefits as well as reduced stress and improved concentration.
While it may be easier to keep work supplies on or near your desk, you can take more steps if you arrange your office in a way that promotes movement. Keep your trash bin and printer farther from your desk and place files and pens in places that force you to stand or walk to access them.
By building these small movements and walks into your routine, you can make a real difference in the amount of physical activity you do during the day. Standing and walking just a little more will improve your posture, tone muscles, burn extra calories, and may even increase your productivity. Make these positive choices each day to stand up for your health at work.