In our last post, we highlighted how dangerous leading a sedentary lifestyle can be to our health. People who sit a lot may have increased risk factors that affect heart and overall health, such as high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, excess belly fat and obesity. While it’s unclear what the cause and effect is, as researchers can’t be sure whether people are at greater risk for these health risks because they sit too much or if they sit a lot because they already have these health risks, there is still ample evidence to support the importance of moving more throughout the day.
Don’t think that you’re immune to the dangers of being too sedentary just because you go for a jog every morning or hit the gym for a 1 hour bootcamp class after work. While regular exercise is certainly good for you in many ways, the hour or so you spend exercising may not undo the 8 or more hours you spend sitting throughout the day.
The good news is that you can introduce more physical activity into your life without committing to a gym membership or getting up at 5 a.m. to go for a walk or a run, when all you want to do is get a few more minutes of precious sleep. A few simple lifestyle changes — even if they’re made gradually — can make a difference in providing you with more energy, less stress, and a restoration of your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Tricks for Incorporating More Movement into Your Life
While you can’t just quit your desk job, there are some things you can do throughout the day to reduce the amount of time you sit or to break up long stretches of sitting. This includes:
At work: Get up and move around every half hour or hour throughout the day. Take a walk to a co-workers desk instead of sending an email or get up from your chair and stretch. Try to perform activities standing instead of sitting whenever possible, such as talking on the phone. Have a walking meeting instead of sitting in a conference room. During your lunch break, take a walk instead of socializing in the break room.
At home: It’s understandable that you want to sit for a few minutes to unwind at the end of a busy day, but just don’t do it too long. Instead, take the dog for a walk, stand in the kitchen while talking to your spouse or partner or head to the gym. When watching television, get into the habit of getting up during commercials to move around for a few minutes.
When going out: Getting together with friends doesn’t have to involve sitting at a restaurant or bar. Instead, plan a more active outing. Go dancing, take a walk in the park or play a game of tennis. Even if you head to the bar for a night out, stand around the bar socializing instead of sitting at a table
Running errands: Turn errands into a workout by walking from errand to errand. This will be easy if you work in the city. Simply map our your walking route according to your list of errands and spend your lunch hour speed walking from place to place. Nosh on healthy snacks like fruit, seeds, chopped raw veggies, etc. to keep your body fueled throughout the day to make up for an active lunch hour.
Go the long way: Instead of parking as close to the store entrance as possible, park at the far end of the parking lot and hoof it to the store and back to your car. Use stairs instead of elevators and escalators, etc.
Set the tone: Make doing push-ups and crunches part of your morning routine. Do them before you step into your morning shower, and you’re setting an active tone for the rest of the day.
Make it a race: Set a timer for cleaning chores and fit in as many as you can within your allotted 30 or 40 minutes.
Once you start practicing these easy movement fixes, they’ll become habit and you’ll start realizing more and more opportunities for movement. You’ll be helping your body reset its natural circadian rhythm, which in turn will make you feel better physically and mentally, and help you get the nighttime rest you need to tackle each day!