Beth Lipton is a writer and certified health coach. She is a contributing editor at Clean Plates.
You know intuitively that sitting all day long isn’t great for you—maybe you feel tired, or stiff, or slouchy, or all of the above, after prolonged time spent on your tush. And yet, in our modern lifestyles, with work in front of computers, long commutes and the lure of Netflix, sitting seems like our natural state.
But research shows that we need more movement in our daily lives. How important is it? Too much sitting has been linked with cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance (one of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes), osteoporosis, and cognitive decline. And if that isn’t enough, according to the American Cancer Society, “For those who get the least amount of physical activity, replacing a half hour of sitting time with physical activity was associated with up to a nearly 50 percent reduction in mortality.” Yup, that’s right: Sitting too much can kill you. Well, OK then.
Now, you may be thinking, “No worries, I go to the gym 4 days a week.” So, that’s great. But what we’re talking about is natural movement off and on all day, not vigorous exercise for one bit of time. Going to the gym is great, keep it up—but that 30 to 60 minutes doesn’t offset the rest of the day if most of it is spent sitting (sorry).
Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon your computer-facing job and return to our ancestors’ hunter-gatherer roots, and you don’t have to add more stuff to your to-do list. With a few simple strategies, you can move around more every day and reap the benefits.
1. Stand. Get a standing desk, if you can, and move around while you’re on your feet. Or just stand up and stretch a few times a day.
2. Walk. This is the easiest thing to add to your day, and it’s free. A few ways to walk more:
- Walk to work. Or, if it’s too far, walk to a farther train station than your usual one, and/or get off a stop early. If you drive to work, park a few blocks away.
- Walk around the office. Set a timer for every 30 or 60 minutes, get up and walk around. Refill your water bottle (bonus points for staying hydrated) and use the restroom. Visit a coworker instead of sending an email, have a walking meeting, go up and down a couple of flights of stairs.
- Walk after dinner. Go with your partner, your family, your dog—or get a few minutes of alone time in.
3. Stretch. You don’t even have to stand up for this. Do some basic stretches at your desk. Not only does this get you moving, it also can help relieve the aches and pains sitting at a desk can cause. Or try some chair yoga (it’s a thing). Partner up with a coworker and do it together.
4. Tidy up. You’ve heard it can be life-changing—well, that may be true in more ways than one. Instead of saving up all your chores for the weekend, do a task every morning or evening that gets you moving, like laundry, vacuuming, wiping the mirrors in your home, etc.
5. Fidget. We know, your mom spent all those years telling you to stop fidgeting (sorry, mom). But a small study suggests that toe- or heel-tapping and other fidgeting actually can increase circulation. So if you’ve got a natural desire to move, embrace it.
6. Make it a game. Every time you send a text, do 5 squats. Every time you check Instagram, hold a plank for 30 seconds or do 5 chair dips. You’ll either increase your physical activity or decrease your screen time or both—win win.
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