Have a seat.
I just want to sit.
We Americans do a lot of sitting. Consider these disturbing stats:
- sedentary jobs in the US have increased 83% since 1950
- the average office worker sits 15 hours each day, including time in the car
- the regular Joe or Jane spends half of their waking hours sitting
In fact, we sit more than at any other time in recorded history, and that’s a problem. Based on 13 different studies, the Mayo Clinic concluded that “sitting time and activity levels found in those who sat for more than 8 hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.”
Why? Because when we sit, we:
- burn fewer calories
- reduce blood circulation
- increase the potential for inflammation
- tend to engage in passive, mindless stuffing of the face
- offset the health benefits of working out
This puts us at a greater risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease. I know, this is depressing. But I have some very good news: we don’t have to become gym rats, fitness freaks or super jocks to avoid these health problems. Instead, we need to incorporate “microbursts of movement” into how we go about our day.
Rethink Your Day
Remember those 1981 Olivia Newton John lyrics: “let’s get physical, physical”? Pull out that old soundtrack in your brain and make that a mantra as you go about your day. The idea is to create opportunities for movement and incorporate movement during the day to replace sedentary habits.
Below are several practical ways to incorporate movement:
- When you wake up – Prime your body for a day of movement by stretching for at least five minutes before you get out of bed. Move your arms overhead, wiggle around, reach your legs out as far as they will go. Circle your wrists and feet.
- Set a 30-minute prompt – Remember that this is behavior change; you want to develop the habit of incorporating movement at 30-minute intervals, so a prompt will get you launched. It could be a post-it on the fridge and on your desk with the words MOVE! Or even a timer you set on your phone. The idea is to embed the habit, so that you eventually won’t need the prompt.
- Consider what counts as movement – Standing up when typing a text, walking around the house when on a phone call, doing leg stretches and neck rolls at your desk, getting outside to water the potted plants, walking to the mailbox, unloading the dishwasher, bending and stretching for a few minutes – in other words, almost anything. Hop about doing a dance a day? Go ahead and cue up those “Physical” lyrics or another upbeat song and get movin’ and a -groovin.’
- Build more movement into everyday activities – Speaking of that mailbox and dishwasher…I challenge myself by making two or three jaunts out to check for the mail as that racks up steps and burns calories while getting me outdoors for a few minutes. I also remove one item at a time form the dishwasher as that ensures many bends from the waist. Here’s another one: when you rush out to the Harris Teeter or the Food Lion for a quick trip, park farther away from the store than you typically would. Again, this means more steps which means more movement. How about using a small water glass at your desk and getting up to refill it often? Or, taking TV commercial breaks as opportunities to squeeze in a few lunges or picking up your weights and doing some reps? Ask yourself what other opportunities are waiting to be discovered in your daily routine.
- Don’t forget opportunities to “make moving social” – Take a coffee walk with a friend instead of a coffee break, right?