A few years back, you probably heard the news that sitting was the new smoking. While that claim was more than a little exaggerated, it is true that sitting for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to your health.
The good news is that a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that you can offset the risks of prolonged sitting by increasing your physical activity. They also found that reducing the time you spend sitting is better for your health.
In summary, they suggest standing more and recognizing that the more you sit, the more activity you should try to squeeze into your typical day.
In your busy life, that might seem impossible or at least improbable because the last thing you want to do is exercise. A TV binge, a glass of wine, and a hot bath are how you want to wrap up your day. But you can have both.
Ways to Squeeze in a Workout
In a perfect world, you don’t have to double up your workouts to combat your desk life. The following tips will help you develop healthy habits that add more activity to your life without putting a stressful drain on your energy.
1. Post-Meal Walks
Start by focusing on dinner or lunch, whichever is easiest for you, and follow your meal with a brief, brisk walk. A mile is a good target goal. Not only does this add some exercise to your day, but walking after meals aids digestion and improves blood sugar levels.
If possible, start making a post-meal walk a part of every meal, even big snacks, to reap the most rewards. Whether you enjoy spending this time alone, practicing mindful meditation, or you spend it with friends and family, it’s the perfect amount of time to socialize and to get your ducks in order for the rest of the day.
2. Stand and Walk
Stand-up desks are one of the hottest pieces of office equipment since the computer. If possible, ask your employer to invest in a stand-up desk. If they’re not willing to foot the bill, there are several ways you can transform a regular desk into a stand-up desk at a relatively low price.
If you want to take your workday fitness even further, invest in a treadmill desk that will have you walking at a comfortable pace while you type away. This might not be practical in the office, but if you have a home office, you can turn that work from home day into the healthiest day of the week.
3. Always Take the Hard Way
Make life a little more difficult for yourself in small ways whenever possible, to force your body to be more active.
Park further from the door, take the stairs when you can, get off the bus a stop early, stand more often, enjoy a coffee-walk, or carry your groceries without a car. Anything you can think of that involves a little extra effort will quickly become a part of your healthy habits and work at negating all the sitting you do.
If you want to make this tip even more effective, go beyond the little things, and start shoveling your own snow by hand, use a push lawnmower, rake leaves, etc. Doing things the good, old-fashioned way puts your body on track to burn more calories and be more active.
4. Regular Fitness Breaks
The micro-workout is the hottest new fitness trend for people who really don’t want to spend a lot of time exercising. The best thing is that they’re so fast, you can truly squeeze in a couple of them a day. You might even be able to convince your co-workers to do them with you.
Imagine turning your midday coffee break, your lunchtime, and your late afternoon snack into quick workouts that are so fast you still have some time to enjoy the break.
5. Walk and Talk on the Phone
Calling for appointments, talking to your mom, catching up on gossip, checking in on a conference call–you probably spend quite a lot of your day on the telephone. Turn your phone time into standing or walking time.
Take up the habit of pacing during calls, and suddenly you’re not only cutting down on your sitting time, but you’re also getting in a little exercise.
Sitting takes less energy than standing, and sitting for long periods of time can create a number of health concerns. Mayo Clinic lists the problems from prolonged sitting as a cluster of conditions. This cluster can include obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and more body fat around your waist. These cluster conditions lead to metabolic syndrome.
If you sit behind the wheel of your car during very long commutes or drive for work, then that counts. If you spend a lot of the day curled up on the couch, that counts. When you take all of the time and add it up, you’ll find that you’re probably spending the majority of your day sitting.
Incorporating more exercise and activity into your life is easy if you pick up a new physical hobby or add an exercise routine to your day. The above tips can help you cut back on sitting in ways that anyone can do.
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