We’ve all heard about the health risks of spending too much time sitting each day. The dangers can include obesity, heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer, among others.
The statistics can be especially disheartening if you’re stuck sitting at a desk all day.
Although fitting in a few hours a week to work out at the gym is a good idea, it won’t counter the effects of too much sitting. Sitting too much, also known as sedentary behaviour, is not the same thing as not getting enough exercise.
The good news is that you can take action—literally—to reduce the harmful effects of “occupational sitting.” The Mayo Clinic recommends sitting less and moving more overall. The key, it says, is to include short but regular breaks throughout the workday. Even a two- or three-minute break to stand or move can help.
These breaks can also help reduce stress, which in turn can benefit your overall physical health. Spending a few minutes every hour or so throughout the workday to be active has been shown to lower stress levels. Got a tight deadline? Is there a make-or-break presentation looming on tomorrow’s agenda? Give yourself a break by taking a movement break.
Even with our jam-packed schedules, it can be surprisingly easy to fit in short breaks. Here are five simple ways to include these much-needed breaks from sitting in your daily work routine. (And we promise none of them involve working at a treadmill desk!)
1. Rise again (and again and again)
Even the simple muscle movement needed to stand is helpful. Catch up on phone calls while standing up. Get up on your feet while eating lunch. Stand (and maybe even include a few quick stretches?) while reading notes for your next presentation.
2. Put a ring(tone) on it
Using the same technology that often keeps you at your desk, program an hourly movement break reminder on your cell phone, tablet or computer. There are reminder apps available for most devices.
3. Walk this way
Take the long way around to the photocopier or water fountain. Is your seminar in a room three floors up? Skip the elevator (who wants to wait anyway?) and take a short hike up the stairwell. Get the whole team in on this one and propose occasional walking brainstorming sessions. (Hey, it works for J.J. Abrams!)
4. Be prepared
Bring your favourite pair of comfortable walking or running shoes to keep at your desk. That way you’re always ready to use a coffee break or part of your lunch hour to take a five-minute stroll through the building without breaking a heel.
5. Actual face time
Before you hit “send” on one more text or email to a co-worker, consider heading over to their desk to answer a simple question or deliver a short message. This gives you plenty of chances to take mini breaks away from your desk (and also helps you keep those still-important people skills sharp).
Your turn: Share your favourite ways to fit a bit of fitness into your work day in the comment section below.
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