If you are sitting at your desk right now reading this, you might have what is arguably the most common health problem in Canada today – Sitting Disease. Sitting Disease is a term that has been coined by the scientific community to describe a metabolic condition caused by the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. And while the scientific community has recognized this as a real concern, the medical community has not yet classified it as a diagnosable illness.
Researchers, however, have this to say:
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” ~Martha Grogan, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic
“Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease … Every two hours spent just sitting reduces blood flow and lowers blood sugar, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.” ~ James A. Levine, MD, PhD
“Prolonged sitting should be considered within occupational health and safety policies and practices just like other elements of posture.” ~ British Journal of Sports Medicine
“We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting.” ~ Genevieve Healy, PhD
Regardless of whether you consider yourself more science-minded or medical-minded, there are few of us who could argue the benefits of incorporating more activity into our daily lives. Standing a little more each day tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, ramps up metabolism and burns extra calories. Also, a survey conducted by the Ipsos Study concluded that over 60% of employees were convinced they would be more productive if they had the option to work on their feet. When you take everything into consideration, there really is no down side to getting up on your feet!
To help get you started, here are some ways to move more during your day, regardless of where you may be:
- Walk faster. Pick up the pace each and every time you walk, whether it’s going down a hallway, getting to your car, shopping at the mall, or merely enjoying nature.
- Take the stairs. Walking just two flights of stairs daily burns enough calories to melt six pounds in a year. In fact, climbing stairs for two minutes, five days a week provides the same calorie burn as a 36-minute walk.
- Add 15 minutes of walking to your lunch menu. At work or at home, we often allot 30 to 60 minutes to eat, but eating usually takes just 10 minutes. Spend your extra time walking, not sitting.
- Dance. Move to the music at every opportunity, even if it’s just shimmying to music on your own while you wash the dinner dishes. Dancing is both joyful and healthy; you don’t need a dance floor, special occasion, or even a partner to do it.
Ideas for Around Your Home
- Clean up daily. Dusting, doing laundry, vacuuming, and washing windows can all use up about as many calories as taking a spin on a bicycle. An extra hour of cleanup per week burns enough calories to trim four or five pounds in a year.
- Turn TV time into a workout. Sit up straight and grab one hand with the other. Press your palms together hard for five seconds, then release. Repeat at least four times. Next, straighten one of your lower legs so it’s parallel to the floor, and then lower it, switching back and forth between legs for as long as you can do it. Next, use commercial breaks during TV shows as a chance to get up and move around.
- Put drinking water in a gallon jug. Keep it in the refrigerator, and when you need a drink, pour it out. A gallon of water weighs more than eight pounds—enough to give your wrist and arms a workout with each pour.
- Exercise your calf muscles while brushing your teeth. Place your feet flat on the floor, then rise up onto the balls of your feet, hold for two seconds, then sink down. Repeat 20, 30, 50 or more times. Do this also while washing dishes or standing in line. Another great exercise is the “skinny jean”. Pull your stomach muscles tight like you would if you were wrestling into a pair of tight jeans. Hold for a 15-count, and then release.
Ideas for the Yard
- Spend an hour outdoors each week. There’s a direct correlation between fitness levels and the amount of time you spend outdoors vs. indoors. Think about it: People who live outside are by nature more energized, upbeat, and fit. What to do outside? Pull weeds. Walk the dog. Practice your golf or tennis swing. Mulch the beds. Look for unusual birds. Bicycle. Visit a neighbor.
- Weed by hand. Getting down on your hands and knees to yank out weeds can be part of your daily workout once or twice a week. Leaning onto your hands as you weed will build arm, shoulder, and upper back strength.
- Rake by hand. Don’t use a leaf blower. By grabbing a rake instead, you’ll burn an additional 50 calories per hour. And maybe your neighbors will start speaking to you again.
- Split your own wood. Instead of buying overpriced bundles of firewood at the supermarket or having a half cord delivered each winter, channel your inner Paul Bunyan and split the wood yourself. Start in the late summer and put in 30 minutes each weekend (wielding an axe any longer can leave you with a sore back). You’ll burn a few hundred calories and strengthen your upper-body muscles.
Ideas for the Office
- Talk standing. Whenever talking on the telephone, stand up and if possible, walk or pace. Never be seated while chatting on the phone.
- Have walking meetings. Need to discuss an important matter with a colleague? Skip the conference room, slip on some comfortable walking shoes, and invite them for a stroll. Bring a small pad and pen to jot down notes, or use the voice recorder on a smart phone.
- Get face-to-face at work. Instead of e-mailing or calling colleagues, take a stroll to their part of the building for some face time when you need to ask a question or solve a work issue.
- 2-5 every 60-90. Modern office workers are sometimes referred to as “workaholics”, working long hours and taking few breaks. Studies have shown that skipping breaks or lunch can hamper productivity and even increase mortality. To combat this, follow the 2-5 every 60-90 rule: Every 60 to 90 minutes get up and move around for 2 to 5 minutes. Not only is it a good break for your body, it’s a good break for your mind too!
So what are you still reading for?! Get up and get moving!