Since the rise of technology over the last several decades, more jobs than ever involve sitting at a desk in front of a computer. In 1960, about 50% of American jobs required moderate physical labor. Now, about 86% of American workers sit all day for their jobs. Recently, you may have heard this phrase: “Sitting is the new smoking.” Scientific studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to many health problems and may shorten life span. Back problems, weight gain, muscle loss, circulatory issues, decreased cardiovascular health and depression are only some of the health issues we may face. One study recently linked a sedentary lifestyle to an increase in certain types of cancer.
Here are a some suggestions that may offset the negative effects of sitting:
- Get up from your desk regularly to move and stretch. Don’t sit for hours on end!
- Keep a water bottle or cup at your desk and refill it regularly to work towards the recommended 8 cups per day. This will force you to get up one way or another!
- Park your car further away or on a different level of the garage than you normally do, so you must walk further and/or take the stairs.
- Use the stairs more often to get in steps and work major muscles. If you are not used to stairs, try one flight occasionally before adding more. Make sure to hold the railing for safety!
- During phone calls:
- Take the call on your cellphone and walk during the call.
- In a conference room or private office, you can pace during the call.
- Have a stand-up meeting in the coffee bar. (Great for informal meet and greet type of meetings).
- Have walking and talking meetings. (Another way to have an informal meeting with just a few people; Walk to the Starbucks, take a stroll outside, etc.)
Outside of work:
If you have a fitness routine already, terrific! If a regular routine seems impossible, try to work in 20-30 minutes of continuous movement per day, even if it’s not a set routine.
Ideas for movement:
- Housekeeping, organizing closets, garage
- Walk the dog
- Play with kids
- Exercise while the kids are at sports practice (Go for a walk outdoors instead of dropping off or waiting in the car).
- Use an earbud/Bluetooth, so you can walk and do chores at home, while making phone calls.
The less activity we do, the fewer calories we expend. This can contribute to weight gain and poor health.
Here are a few easy ways to offset weight gain from too much sitting:
- Cut back portion sizes by a third to one half. A doctor once recommended this to me and it is so easy! Eat your normal diet, just eat less!
- Give up some of the unhealthier or highly caloric foods during the week (for example, sweets, cream/sugar in coffee, French Fries, alcohol, etc.) then enjoy a splurge on the weekend. I have employed this tactic to great success many times. I was surprised that I got used to black coffee after several days and began to enjoy it. Then, when I had cream and sugar on the weekend, it was a real treat!
The calories that you save with the two tactics above, will really add up and make a big difference over time. In the long run, you will be slimmer and much healthier. Rather than going on a “diet” (which is never fun) and losing weight quickly (and gaining it back just as fast) you will make small changes that are manageable. This is always better and more sustainable.
I hope you will try some of these suggestions! The most important thing is to move more during working hours. Get out of that chair! Increased activity plus small changes in diet will make a huge difference in your overall long term health!