Are You Moving Enough?
The negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle were being talked about 80 years ago. In the 1940s, a Scottish epidemiologist named Morris investigated the risks of what was then called ‘sitting disease’. He discovered conductors were at lower risk for coronary heart disease than their bus-driving colleagues. When he expanded the study and compared postal delivery workers to sedentary postal clerks, similar results were found.
Since that time, more and more research links sitting for uninterrupted periods of time with two times greater risk of diabetes, a 90% greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 49% greater risk of death. Excessive sitting also causes a variety of musculoskeletal disorders, like carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and muscle or tendon strain – it’s not surprising that over 90% of us complain to our doctors about having seemingly random body pains. It’s this research that drives the media buzz about how our modern lifestyle – spending on average 8 hours per day at a desk, 1-2 hours sitting whilst commuting, and even more time sitting watching tv – is killing us.
In 2005, James Levine, an obesity specialist at Mayo Clinic, published an article in Science Magazine in which he labelled sitting as the disease of our time. This issue doesn’t only affect adults, children and teens are subjected to long hours during classes and when completing school work or projects. What do they do with their free time? Reading a book? Watching videos? All of these involve lack of activity! With the fact that we’re currently told to stay home, sports and physical activity is kept to a minimum, especially for those who don’t have space to exercise at home.
The implications and potential impact we get from not moving enough are serious, so let’s talk solutions!
Time yourself when sitting
Even if you work out for an hour every day, remaining seated for the rest is still going to be harmful. A good way to add activity to the workday is to time yourself while you know you’ll be sitting for long hours. The pomodoro technique gets you taking a 5 minute break every 25 minutes so you can stretch or walk around. If that’s too short, pick a suitable time frame and experiment with exercises or stretches to find a suitable one (try out desk yoga!). Varying your body’s position helps prevent injuries or stress, and increases blood flow. The short breaks you take to move around also gives you a little energy boost so that you’ll be alert when you continue with your task.
Reconfigure the workspace
Many of us are sedentary for hours while we work, missing out on the opportunity to burn calories. Change up your workspace to help get you standing and moving. You can switch from sitting to standing with ease if you have a stand-up desk for your work. Don’t overdo standing though! It’s important to alternate between standing and sitting from time to time as standing for too long can also cause health problems. Additionally, you should also improve the ergonomics of your workspace. Screen height and angle, keyboard and mouse positions and the chair you sit on should all be taken into account to ensure your posture is correct and not putting strain to your body. A good setup can go a long way in minimizing aches and pains, and preventing permanent damage.
Exercise while watching videos
Come up with a simple exercise routine you can follow so that you’re not sitting idly when watching your favourite shows. Moves like lunges, squats and jumping jacks get you working without taking your eyes off the screen. Put your exercise equipment at home to good use if you have any lying around. If you live in an apartment, your downstairs neighbour wouldn’t appreciate the thumping from jumps! Find workouts that minimize the noise you make while still meeting the exercise quota, like yoga. It’s important to keep note of your moves and posture while you’re exercising. Take breaks and don’t overdo your exercise while you’re enthralled by what you’re watching.
Get chores done and give rewards
Cleaning up your home regularly is another way to stay active and keep the place neat and tidy as well. Instead of dedicating the weekend to cleaning up, why not break the chores into bits and pieces you tackle every day? When you prepare a meal, vacuum or garden, you’re doing physical activity that will break the monotony of work. It’s a good way to get the kids involved as well. If they’re not yet familiar with chores, this is a chance for them to learn valuable skills and spend time with you. When they help out, it gets them out of their chairs and gets them moving. Don’t forget to reward them and yourself if you all stay active. Positive reinforcement keeps everyone motivated to get moving.
Unfortunately, productivity often overshadows the risk of too much sitting. Adults feel like they should be working instead while kids feel like that time can be spent studying or completing schoolwork. However, our health is definitely far more important than squeezing in that last few minutes of work you can eke out if you don’t take a break. Without moderation on your sitting habits, you’ll get the back and neck pains that will affect your productivity anyway! Making these small improvements can do wonders for everyone and now is a good time as any to start moving.