A classic study from 2013 showed that 80 percent of our sedentary lifestyle can be traced to our work. Upping the ante, the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that “Those who sit for long hours showed a 90-percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who sat less, an 18-percent higher chance of dying of heart disease or cancer and 24-percent greater odds of dying from any other cause.”
These kinds of findings have led to an interesting and sobering battle cry: “Sitting is the new smoking.”
Our sedentary lifestyle causes us to gain weight. In a world where obesity and related diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are killing thousands every year, that’s a big deal. At the same time, it’s unreasonable to think we’re going to move away from desk work anytime soon. As industry and the information age have progressed, more and more work has been relegated to the computer, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
So, what can you do to alter your sedentary lifestyle — to get up and move — without changing your entire career? Here are six simple tips that will help you get your move on while at work.
Use an activity tracker
It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. In fact, if you routinely carry your smartphone in your pocket, that’s likely all you need.
Download a step counting app and set yourself a goal of at least 7,000 steps a day. Don’t kill yourself trying to hit it on Day One. But, figure out little changes you can make to up that count each day until you hit your goal. Then, raise the goal if you think there’s more you can do. Here are some ways to boost your step count every day:
- Park farther from the building
- Take the stairs
- Walk to lunch instead of getting it delivered
- Walk or bike to work instead of driving
- Commute using public transportation, which likely requires more walking on your part
- Make your own copies and deliver your own files
The point is, you’ll never know where you are or where you’re going if you don’t keep track of your activity. And, there’s a gamification factor as you watch your step count rise. Once you get into it, you’ll figure out ways to reach your goal.
Choose a standing desk
Just standing up is dramatically better for you than sitting down. And, if you’re in a standing position, you’re much more likely to move more — pacing, walking off to speak to someone, or whatever — than if you’re sitting. So, a simple standing desk can make all the difference for otherwise sedentary desk workers.
If you work at home (or enjoy an extremely accommodating office environment) you can boost the value even more by investing in a treadmill desk that allows you to actually walk while you work.
Get a quality Bluetooth headset
If you’re normally tied to the desk because you’re on the phone a lot, a Bluetooth headset can be a gamechanger. It allows you to stand up and pace around your office without missing a beat.
A Bluetooth keyboard and mouse can improve matters as well, if you have the flexibility to move around while still seeing and interacting with your screen.
Take frequent breaks
Depending on your tasks, this may need to be micromanaged a bit. But, it can make a world of difference to your overall level of activity if you make it a point to get up and walk away from your desk every few hours at least. If you have the flexibility, make it 10 minutes every hour.
Not only will you be moving more, and therefore living a healthier lifestyle, you’ll also be more productive because your mind benefits just as much as your body when you get up and take a break from work.
Encourage standing meetings
Humans are funny creatures. If you walk into a room where everyone is seated at a table, you’re likely to sit down immediately at an available seat. Likewise, if you walk into a room where everyone is standing, you’ll feel awkward sitting down.
So, if you want to add more movement and less sitting to your workday, it makes sense to meet while standing up. Now, if you’re not in charge of these meetings, it may be a tougher change to initiate. But, if you can manage it, not only will it add movement to everyone’s day, it also leads to much shorter meetings!
Workout at your desk
Again, this depends on where and how your desk is set up. But, if you have the room and you’re not going to distract anyone or get in anyone’s way, there’s no reason you can’t go as far as exercising right at your desk.
There are a ton of highly effective exercises you can do right there in front of your computer while you read, monitor server activity, analyze stocks, or whatever it is you’re staring at the screen to accomplish. For instance, you can do jumping jacks, squats, lunges, calf raises, stretches, dumbbell curls, and a hundred other moves that will get your blood pumping and your calories burning.
When you get down to it, this list barely scratches the surface. The point is to put a priority on movement and avoid the 8-10 hours of sitting that dominates most people’s workday. Whatever accomplishes that for you is a win.
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