So many of us work long hours at our desks. This can hold true for individuals who travel to an office every day, and also for those of us who work from home. We no longer have to get up from our desk chair, except to go to the bathroom or maybe the fridge. We sit and talk on our phones, sit and send emails and text messages, sit and watch programming at our desks while we eat lunch, sit and schedule meetings online and even sit and attend conferences online. Our bodies remain in one position for upwards of six to eight hours daily, rarely moving. Then we go home to sit and eat and watch TV or play video games, or we just chill out. Studies suggest that this lack of movement is wreaking havoc with our health.
Bodies that don’t move can “get rusty,” with joints developing movement limitation and circulatory issues (lower limbs can swell). We can experience digestive issues (food digests better when you move a bit), and certain chronic disease are associated with sedentary lifestyle. Depression, obesity, a shorter lifespan and sarcopenia have all been linked to regular and long periods of sitting. Headlines suggest sitting is the new smoking, because it is so widespread and such a serious health risk. Back in 2012, the Mayo Clinic asked, “Do you have sitting disease?” The famous institute literally categorized sitting as an actual disease because the habit can be difficult to break, and because it instigates higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. A sedentary lifestyle is a habit you must break. We need to move regularly throughout the day, even if some of us devote 30-60 minutes of our day to exercise. Even an hour of exercise daily is not enough to counterbalance hours of sitting.
How do you get more movement into your day?
- Set alarms on your tech device for regular “stand up and stretch moments.”
- Bike or walk to work (even part of the distance).
- Learn to do some basic exercises at your desk and break up your day by several five minute exercise bouts.
- Stand up and pace when you are on your phone.
- Get up and deliver messages to people in your office.
- Suggest a lunchtime walk and talk as part of your lunch experience.
- Take the stairs any opportunity you get.
- See if your company will sponsor a weekly in-office exercise or yoga class for the group.
- Wear a pedometer to track your steps and set daily and weekly goals.
- Consider using a standing desk some of the time.
- Drink more water so you have to go to the bathroom more often.
- Get an under-the-desk bike pedal exerciser.
- Keep some light weights and elastic bands at your desk for a quick upper body workout.
- At home, commit to exercising during commercials.
Our bodies were designed to move, not to sit. Move like your life depends on it, because it really does. As medical experts suggest, if you don’t move, the day may come when you can’t move.
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”