Whether it is too many Zoom meetings, too much Netfilx watching or the lack of motivation because of mild depression, our new Covid pandemic induced stay-at-home lives may have increased the time we are sitting still.
Too much time in a chair is detrimental to our physical health and our psyche. Studies show sedentary lifestyles and too much sitting increase our chances of cancer, blood sugar spikes, heart disease, mental health problems and even untimely death. Reading that may make us want to toss the chairs out of our homes and offices, but that is not practical—unless you are deep into a Covid-driven home redecorating project ?.
Working out every day doesn’t completely solve the problem either. The problem has more to do with how long our muscles are inactive rather than how much time we spend working out.
So what is the answer? Our lives are very sedentary—much more sedentary than our parents’ or our grandparents’ lives, and even more so now with Safer-at-Home orders. And as a result, over time we have become a less healthy society.
How do we fight the threat of our chairs?
The answer is to get up and move.
It is really as simple as that.
Now, we definitely need to make time for more intense workouts several times a week. That goes without saying. But beyond the workout, if we want to combat the threat of sitting, it is crucial that you sit less and move more.
What do we mean by move more? It’s just a matter of getting up and walking around, taking the stairs, doing some push-ups, taking a stretching break or visiting a colleague’s office rather than sending her an email (if you are still in an office setting).
The bottom line is that we’ve got to move more, and the secret is to not only increase the duration of time that we are moving but also the frequency. We need to move more and we need to do it more often.
In fact, some suggest that we get up and move around every 20 minutes. Others recommend getting up every 60 minutes.
Does this seem like it would distract?
Actually, we probably find that we focus better and are more creative if we step back from our work twice every hour. The mind can only stay in laser-focus mode for so long before it needs to be recharged with a brief rest. Taking ‘movement breaks’ will not only help our health, it will help our productivity as well!
Since most of us are not used to taking frequent breaks in our work, half the battle is just remembering to stand up and move. Set a timer to remind yourself. Decide how often you want to get up and set the time on your phone, your computer, or even an egg-timer on your desk. When the timer sounds, get up.
The next question becomes then, ‘What to do when you get up?’
Trust me, these are not new ideas or anything you haven’t heard before, but a friendly reminder of some tips and tricks that will help add some life-giving movement into your day:
1. Hold walking meetings. So much of our lives are virtual now, it should be easier to take some calls on the move. Walking along a park’s trail works just as well as sitting around a conference table.
2. Install a treadmill desk. Treadmill desks are treadmills with a desk attachment upon which you can place your computer, phone and other office supplies. You can work while walking at a slow speed.
3. Take the stairs. If you typically use an elevator (to get to your office, your apartment, or hotel) consider taking the stairs instead, especially during Covid-times. Getting in a small enclosed area with strangers is not a good idea! You can also use your stairs at home to just get a little movement in during your sitting breaks.
4. Keep hand weights handy. Engaging the muscles in your upper body is a great way to get your blood moving and give your metabolism a boost. Again, set an alarm and every hour (or a self-determined timeframe) alternate doing a few upper body and then lower body exercises.
5. Choose a different parking spot. Rather than choosing a close parking spot, choose one that will force you to have a good walk when visiting stores or arriving for work (for those of you who are still going IN to work and not working from home). Those of us who are at home should schedule regular walking breaks to move our bodies and clear our minds.
6. Stand up when the phone rings. Make it a habit to not take calls sitting down.
7. Mingle standing up. We are social creatures and being with others contributes to the quality of our lives. So here we suggest trying to socialize on your feet while meeting with family and friends. Even in this time of social distancing there are still opportunities to commune outside your home, at a local park or somewhere in nature. Try to make some part of that gathering active.
It is worth the effort to sit less and move more. Your life depends on it!