Historically, going to work meant laboring with one’s hands, while standing on one’s feet. From swinging a pickaxe, to bending over crops growing in the hot sun, to toiling in a factory, the nature of work in the 21st century has undergone a dramatic revision. Plenty of people still labor on their feet, using their bodies. But far more Americans toil under fluorescent lights, in air-conditioned offices. While sitting.
It’s nice to avoid sweating all day at work, but while sitting sounds far better than standing, it’s not quite as great as it seems. The fact is, most of us spend too much time sitting and not enough time moving. No one’s suggesting you get a job toiling in a hot soybean field. But you might want to put some movement and activity back into your day.
The trick, of course, is to fit in some movement, even while doing a job that requires you to sit for eight hours a day. Why does it matter? Never mind that up to two-thirds of Americans are now overweight or obese. What’s more troubling is the fact that inactivity is literally killing us.
According to heart experts, being sedentary (sitting for prolonged periods, without moving) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But, while prolonged time sitting is bad for your cardiovascular health, experts also note that “high levels of physical activity” can offset the ill effects of sitting. So, while you may not be able to avoid sitting, you can take steps to minimize the risks associated with such passive behavior.
In fact, literally taking steps is one of the easiest ways to ameliorate the effects of too much sedentary time.
Get Up and Move
Try setting a reminder so you’re notified to at least once an hour to stop what you’re doing, get up, and take a short break. Even if it’s only a jaunt to the rest room, research suggests that just moving occasionally can short-circuit the damaging effects of prolonged sitting. Take a moment to stretch, roll your neck and work out the kinks.
Beyond a casual stroll every hour, consider taking an even more active approach to maintaining fitness at work. For instance, modern cross-fit training has shown that brief intensive workouts can do as much good as much longer, less strenuous workouts in terms of maintaining fitness. Take a cue from this aggressive form of fitness and fit in a minute or two of explosive effort, every two hours or so.
Grab a Single Minute
For most of us, the workplace is no place for fun. But employers are increasingly inclined to appreciate the link between employee fitness and employee well being and productivity. With your supervisor’s permission, if necessary, take a single minute, every two hours or so, to engage in rapid, intensive office exercises, in place. Example include:
- Jumping jacks
- Running in place (knees high, pace rapid)
- If stairs are available, try running up and down several flights for one or two minutes
- Desk push-ups (or windowsill, or some other elevated, immovable object); lean against a supporting surface and do as many push-ups as you can manage in one minute
Other Simple Suggestions
- Bike to work
- Park as far from the office/workplace as possible.
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Walk during your lunch break (drink kefir on the go).
- Take advantage of any workout-related perks offered. Sigh up for the company gym, join the company softball team, take lunch-hour yoga or other fitness classes.
- Stand during calls, meetings, etc., whenever possible