The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of daily physical exercise such as biking or walking, which can be broken up into smaller time periods throughout your day as a means of reducing long bouts of sedentary behavior. Research confirms that a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and if you are spending the majority of your day in a seated position with little movement, even if you are hitting the gym daily for an hour, you may be at a higher risk for a chronic health condition. Here are a few ideas for adding more active time into your day:
Set a timer: Use a timer to periodically remind yourself to get up and move around. You may find this interruption annoying at first, especially if you are working on a deadline, but you will soon find that taking an activity break clears out small aches and pains that result from sitting in the same position for too long. As you get used to taking these breaks you will get better at listening to your body and you may rely on the timer less.
Walk an errand: It may actually take less time for you to walk to complete an errand than it takes to drive, so be honest with yourself about the cost-effectiveness of walking versus driving. If you absolutely cannot spare the additional fifteen minutes that walking requires, grab your car keys and go; however, when you’ve been sitting all day and driving to the post office seems ideal just because you are caught in a cycle of inactivity, admit you need the exercise and hit the pavement.
Clean up: Take the time at least once a day to tidy up your work space. Whether you work inside or outside your home, a neat environment sets the tone for the work that you do. Papers strewn about, dirty countertops, and disheveled cubbies look out of order and contribute to mental stress. Recognize that you may improve your attitude and increase your productivity if you take the time to perform a cleaning workout – move purposefully with the intention of regulating your breathing and improving posture as you squat, lunge, reach, and pull.
Stand up when you call: If possible, stand up when you talk on the phone. Perform a few squats and lunges and any other activity that allows you to fit in some movement while maintaining a respectful conversation.
Sit well: Just because you are seated does not mean you are exempt from movement. As you are sitting, breathe in your nose and out your mouth. Look straight ahead, bring your shoulder blades back and down, pull in your navel to your spine, and soften your joints. Allow your chest to swell as oxygen flows to every cell in your body, releasing positive energy and soothing any signs of tightness or discomfort. If you are able to work with music as your background noise, stretch and rotate your arms and trunk rhythmically for a quick upper-body workout.
For more ideas on how to get moving, visit the American Heart Association website and click on ‘Getting Healthy,’ where you’ll also find information on nutrition, smoking cessation, and stress management. Adding activity and reducing your sedentary time are both important ways of improving your health and preventing disease. Evaluate your best intentions and then pursue a realistic goal for making changes in your activity level – it may be as easy as taking a walk in the park.