With more people working from home than ever before, it is no wonder more reports are coming out from around the globe that people are gaining wait. The Quarantine 15 might be a new phrase, but it still highlights an age-old problem: that being sedentary is unhealthy. So while remote work can be advantageous in some situations, science continues to warn us that sitting too long in one place increases the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
When you consider how many hours per day you are sitting in front of a computer screen in Zoom meetings, all the sitting becomes a little scary. Sitting is becoming more and more of a silent killer that first affects us by dampening our metabolism, affecting our posture, restricting circulation and the breath, and lessening our concentration.
Humans are mammals, creatures that are primed for movement. Humans are not designed to be sedentary, and our metabolism and musculoskeletal system requires movement in order to stay healthy.
Worse, the damages of sitting for hours and of slouching in a chair over a keyboard or bowing the head towards a phone screen are irreversible through physical activity alone. That means that you cannot undo the side effects of sitting with a mere hour or two in the gym. While working out is important for your health, sitting too much will defeat your efforts.
To help you stay healthy and counteract the bad effects of a sedentary lifestyle, here are several tips that are bound to get you moving:
1. Move Every 90 Minutes
Studies have found that when people move every 90 minutes or so, they can increase their energy levels. Doing so will help you stay more productive throughout the day—and more creative, too. There are some ways you can implement a break every 90 minutes. You can, for example, go for a mid-morning or afternoon walk with your dog; go to the gym with a friend; bring the kids of the playground; or hop into a virtual dance class. The choice is yours.
2. Buy an Adjustable Desk
Did you know that one of the leading causes of injury is the combined influence of poor ergonomics and a sedentary lifestyle? Sitting at a desk leads to poor posture and body mechanics. Your shoulders will begin to slouch forward, your upper back rounds, and all that sitting will strain the lower back while tightening the hip flexors. This leads to pain that doesn’t seem to abate, no matter what you do.
How do you fix it? Get yourself an adjustable desk that lets you sit or stand. Standing will help lengthen the spine and remove pressure from the low back and hips. Plus, holding onto good posture will energize you. Get into the habit of standing up to work at least a few hours every day. If you keep forgetting, use a smartphone app to set reminders to either stand up or to move around the office.
3. Establish a Morning Workout Routine
Whether you are working from home or still commuting to the office, one way to counteract the effects of sitting down for Zoom meetings or in the car is to have a short sweat session in the morning. This exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. You can do some yoga, if you want. The idea is to get the body moving, warm, and limbered up, so that way, your metabolism is already elevated.
4. Go Outside For Your Break
Yes, it may feel wasteful to take breaks throughout the day when you never did before. However, your physical and mental wellness depends on those little breaks. Even if it is just 5 minutes, get away from the desk and go outside for some fresh air. Just three 5 minutes breaks makes up a mere 1 percent of the whole day. You can spend 1 percent outside in the sunshine, right? Besides, getting outside increases creativity, enhances concentration, and decreases stress.
5. Prioritize Work-Life Balance
No matter what, you need to focus on yourself throughout the day, too. Life is not solely about work. Schedule downtime, workouts, and even mindfulness events like outdoor yoga with friends. Be committed to self-care. Yes, work is important—but you are too. If you find that you are feeling stressed out and unhappy with the current situation, the best thing you can do is to start moving.
6. Buy a Pedometer
You may have heard that 10,000 steps a day is enough to promote health. Once you invest in a pedometer or a fitness tracker, you soon realize just how little steps you take throughout the day if you are not reminded to move. People are usually shocked when they first measure their activity level. You can download a pedometer onto your phone and use it alongside calorie trackers, if you want. This will help you fine tune your routine to fit your needs.
7. Take Water Breaks Often
Set a timer for about 25-30 minutes to work without any distractions. Then, when the timer goes off, get up from your workspace to grab yourself a glass of water. Not only does this invite more activity, but it ensures you are staying hydrated. Both water and movement are essential to health, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
8. Fidget A Little
Even if you used to get scolded for bouncing around in your seat as a child, there is no one telling you not to fidget now. And, based on research, you have plenty of reason to tap your feet, too. When you fidget, those micro-movements, such as circling your wrists, bouncing your leg, bobbing your foot, and shifting in your seat help improve your “non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).” In turn, your body uses more calories throughout the day than those people who sit perfectly still.
Sitting kills—but only if you let it. By getting up, moving around, drinking plenty of water, and staying energized, you can counteract the poor effects of too much sitting and stay healthier, longer. Try a few of the steps or all of them to see which ones are best for you.