Are you leading a sedentary lifestyle? You may be if you’re clocking in at least six hours a day in total sit time. Studies say you’re losing seven years of quality life by staying glued to your seat for long periods. Sounds scary? It turns out our parents were right. Don’t be a couch potato, yeah?
Well, we also know it’s not that simple. Some of us have day jobs that require us to stay put at our desks. But since excessive sitting isn’t healthy, you can start breaking away from it now. Consider the following activities that will get your bum off the chair. Difficulty levels go from low to high.
“Creating pockets of moderate activity” can counteract the effects of sitting all day. And one of the examples you can do in the office—without being discovered—is climbing the stairs. It’s good cardio. You don’t even have to leave the building for this. The emergency exit on your floor should do.
Just run up and down the steps. Or you can brisk-walk if you’re wary of getting your clothes soaked in sweat. Also, make sure to set a realistic schedule, say five or 10 minutes, and follow it regularly.
Another moderate activity to try is brisk walking. It counters not only the damages of prolonged sitting but also your creative block.
Squeeze a 30-minute walk into your morning or afternoon. Or distribute across your shift. It’s up to you to maximize your breaks. For example, walk faster when you’re outside to buy a snack.
You can calculate your pace to be sure. To measure speed, you need to get distance/time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define brisk walking as walking at more than 3.5 miles per hour.
Move and stretch
Mobility and stretching drills are another way to move your body. Specifically, why not go for a half-kneeling hip flexor stretch? This exercise targets the front hip, which shortens when you’re sitting. You’ll probably be comfortable doing this if you have an office gym or a similar space designated for physical activities.
Here’s how to do the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch (eight to 10 reps per side) according to Live Strong:
Start with one knee on the ground and the foot of the other leg flat on the ground so that both knees are at 90 degrees. Place both hands on your hips and engage your abs as you squeeze the glute of the knee-down leg. Push the hip forward a couple of inches while you keep the low back from arching. On the last repetition, hold the end position for a 20-second stretch.
Start a push-up routine
For starters, do incline push-ups. These will help strengthen your arms, chest, and core. In turn, you’ll improve your sitting posture while spending moments away from your chair. Find a sturdy object to support you, like a desk, a couch, or even a bed (shout out to the work-from-home crew). Don’t be embarrassed if your teammates see you. They might even get inspired to join you eventually. Also, the more you practice, the higher your chances of achieving full push-ups on the ground.
Stand up on your commute
Reserve this option for the after-hours. While it sounds like a punishment, there are benefits to gain from it. But first, you should see it as a simple way to undo the effects of excessive sitting. Standing activates all of the muscles you didn’t use as you sat all day. By putting it into perspective, you can then probably discover the joys of standing on your commute home.
Yoga is a total body workout that strengthens the muscles. But it also promotes better body awareness. The longer you do it, the more in tune you become to your physical needs and sensations. This effect can enhance your system which detects when it’s time to detach from your chair.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that moderate activity at work is super important. If you don’t get a respite from all-day sitting, your efforts to exercise outside of the office can be canceled out. So, make sure you’re practicing yoga AND walking, stretching, or standing away from your desk at regular intervals.
Complement brisk walking with a home swim. Both activities burn “about the same amount of calories,” according to this Harvard Health Publishing article. Alternating between the two is advised because of the different benefits they can provide you.
Moreover, unlike gym workouts, recreational swimming brings fewer chances of injury. It is also great at alleviating stress and boosting cardiovascular condition. And then there are health resources that underscore its impact on mood.
Pull off those Pilates moves
You’ve probably seen people doing Pilates. Their movements seem easy, but you’ll feel the work on your muscles and joints during and after the exercises.
It would be rewarding to try this low-impact, flexibility and core strength workout. But remember, keep your in-office body mobile to enjoy all the good things Pilates has to offer.
Commit to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
A HIIT workout comes with the promise of whipping your body back into shape. So yes, that includes undoing the undesirable effects of prolonged sitting. But the keyword here is intense. It wants results within a short amount of time. And so are you. Since you probably spend most of your waking hours at work, the time commitment for HIIT should be ideal for you.