Many Americans spend at least eight hours a day sitting – many of them at a desk. Even if you exercise regularly, long periods of sitting without a break can have a negative effect on your health.
Research shows that sitting can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can also raise your risk for colorectal, ovarian and endometrial cancers and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“The human body was made to move,” says Carol Harrison, senior exercise physiology technologist at MD Anderson. “We do ourselves a huge disadvantage by sitting for five to six hours a day.”
Fortunately, adding activity into your workday doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are Harrison’s six suggestions for reducing your chair time.
Host a walking meeting.
Try adding activities to the tasks you already do. This way the activity isn’t detracting from your work.
Instead of meeting around a conference table, go for walk. “You’ll get the work done and be active at the same time,” Harrison says.
Only use phone and email when necessary.
Instead of staying at your desk and sending an email, get up and walk over to speak with a co-worker. You’ll get more exercise and you may find that relationships with your coworkers improve through increased face-to-face interaction.
Set a timer.
Often we end up sitting for so long at work because we don’t even think about being active. “Setting a timer reminds you to be active,” Harrison says. Whenever the timer goes off, go on a short walk down the hall.
But when using tools like a timer, be careful to maintain balance, she warns. Make sure you don’t get in the habit of ignoring the timer, but don’t let it rule you. You don’t want exercise to become a chore.
Take a walk at lunch.
Studies show that walking can help you reduce your risk for major illnesses, including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. It can also improve your mental outlook, alleviate stress and improve your self-esteem. Not bad, for a lunch break.
Exercise at your desk.
Try this simple exercise while you’re working at your desk: See how many times you can sit and then stand for 30-seconds. Repeat four to five times a day. Each time, see if you can break your record. This exercise will strengthen your legs and back.
Consider a standing desk.
Talk to your doctor to find out if a standing desk is right for you. If your company will allow you to use one, try it out. While they may not be right for everyone, you may find that standing helps strengthen your core, improves your posture and keeps you feeling alert.