Research shows that anywhere from 25 – 35 percent of American adults are inactive, thanks in part to sedentary jobs, a lack of physical activity and a heightened interest in technology. In fact, many have equated the effects of extensive sitting with those of smoking, and argued that a half hour of vigorous exercise might not counteract the detrimental impact. Lisa Hatcher, MD, PPG – Family Medicine, offers her suggestions for moving more and sitting less.
Television watching, computer work, auto/truck driving, studying, office work, classroom work … The list is long for all the activities and places that we sit. Americans are afflicted with sitting. The more we sit, the fewer muscles we use and the fewer calories we burn. The result is decreased muscle tone, lower lung volumes, poor cardiovascular endurance, poor posture, thicker waists and flabbier bodies.
Our bodies are miraculous machines that were built for movement. We have an intricate array of large and small muscles on a skeletal framework that allows for a myriad of activities. We can walk, run, hop, skip, jump, dance, bend and lift. Without adequate movement our muscles and joints suffer. Then, when we actually do get around to using our muscles, we have more aches and pains because they aren’t used to the activity. Even our minds and mood suffer without the endorphins produced by movement.
So, what’s the cure? Obviously we have to sit for many things, but with a little planning and creativity we can add movement into a “sit-filled” day. Here are a few ideas:
- Consider replacing your office chair with an exercise ball that requires increased engagement of muscles.
- Set a timer to remind you to take a break when you are working on a project. When the timer goes off get up and move for five minutes before resuming work. This refreshes brain function as well as muscle function.
- Keep a hula hoop in the corner or the break room and spend five minutes “hooping” it up every 2 hours during the day.
- Do the obvious - take the stairs!
- Park as far out in the parking lot as possible, or better yet, find a store parking lot a few blocks from work, park there and hoof it the rest of the way.
- Try putting a pedal box under your desk and pedal through every phone call you handle.
- Dust off your bicycle and bike to work.
- Keep a set of 2-3-pound weights in your desk and use them for arm exercises a few minutes after a trip to the bathroom or the water fountain.
- Ask a co-worker to walk with you at lunch.
- Put your phone on speaker or invest in a Bluetooth headset and stand during long calls and march in place or pace the office.
- Commit to using commercial time during your favorite TV shows as exercise time. Get up and dance or stretch to the music.
- Take your kids outside for a game of kickball, catch, kicking around a soccer ball or shooting hoops.
Brainstorm with your work group or family and see what other ideas you can come up with to combat the sitting disease in your life.