If you work in an office or sit at a desk for long periods, you may find yourself looking at the clock during your workday and realizing you haven’t moved in hours.
Researchers are discovering that these long sitting sessions can be hazardous to your health, even if you exercise regularly in your free time.
“Sitting all day is hard on the body,” says Corina Medina, MD Anderson wellness fitness specialist. “Your muscles become constricted, your breathing is shallow and your ability to manage stress decreases.”
Incorporating activity into your workday is a great way to improve your focus, burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. And keeping your weight down reduces your risk for a number of cancers, including colorectal, endometrial and post-menopausal breast cancer. To reduce your cancer risk, aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
If you can, Medina advises starting your day with activity by walking or biking to work. If that’s not possible, park at the far end of the parking lot and take the stairs to your office for more steps.
You also can find a safe walking route near your office and take a walk for a few minutes before going into work.
Make desk time count
Once your day is under way, Medina says you should try moving at least once every hour.
- Stand while answering phone calls.
- Walk and talk instead of sitting in a conference room.
- Skip the email and visit your co-worker’s area for a chat.
- Stand up during meetings and presentations.
- Take a five-minute walk and work your way up to 10 minutes.
When getting active, don’t forget stretching.
“It’s the most neglected component of exercise or fitness,” she says. “It reduces tension and increases blood flow. Stretching helps the body to maintain proper posture.”
And it may seem awkward at first, but a stability ball is a great substitute for your chair.
You will activate muscles to help you maintain proper posture and balance, and you will take deeper breaths. Deeper breathing fights fatigue and stress and increases your energy level. Build your way up from 10 minutes to an hour.
“Give the body variety in activity. You don’t want to sit for hours. Stand or take movement breaks throughout the day,” Medina says.
You don’t want to sit for hours. Stand or take movement breaks throughout the day.
Make a plan
If you want to get more activity into your work day, you are more likely to succeed if you start with a plan.
When you make fitness a priority, less things get in the way and it’s harder to make excuses. Once activity is a habit, inactivity won’t be a barrier.
- Start each day thinking about ways to be more physically active.
- Schedule movement breaks throughout your day.
- Keep fitness gear at work: resistance bands, light-weight dumbbells, medicine balls.
- Gather co-workers who want to walk and set weekly goals for your group.
- Fitness trackers can help you meet your goals and stick with your plan, says Medina. She uses one every day.
“If you are not a walker or active, apps and fitness trackers can helps you to start from a base and work toward specific goals,” she says. “You may not be need them forever, but they’re a great way to start.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 888-774-3020.