By Jacqueline Rupp, Contributing blogger
We all sit...a lot. Particularly these days of staying inside, moving from the bed directly to the home office and binge watching as the nightly hobby. But something so simple and innocuous as sitting on our behinds, could be one of our biggest health risks.
More research is coming out to show that sitting for long periods of time may be more damaging to our health than we had previously thought. Not that long ago, sitting all day at a desk didn’t seem that bad, so long as you worked out a few times a week.
That model of health is changing and no longer are intense workouts being shown to wipe the damage of a sedentary lifestyle clean. In fact, becoming less sedentary might be more important than sticking to a strict workout regime. Of course that doesn’t mean all you need to stand around and you’ll be in great shape! (sorry, did you really think you’d get out of your workouts that easy!?) Where working out helps build our strength, flexibility, and endurance (to name a few benefits) combining it with overall being less sedentary can have dramatically positive effects on how well we age.
According to the Mayo Clinic, being sedentary, that is, sitting or lying for a majority of the day may raise your risk of:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
That’s a huge list of diseases right there!
But, here’s the good news: being non-sedentary is easy! It’s literally as simple as standing or walking instead of sitting or laying. The hard part is to make not sitting a regular part of your routine and second nature. Here’s a host of easy ways to get off your butt and on your feet. Pick a few of these strategies and try incorporating them for a few weeks. See which ones work for your schedule and abandon the ones that don’t. Then try out a few more and aim for cutting out a good chunk of that sitting time.
- Work using a Standing desk
There are some very cool ergonomic models of standing desks and converting sitting/standing desks that you might want to invest in if you’re looking to upgrade your home office. Now, some can be a bit pricey, so you can always do what I’m doing while writing this article — propping my laptop up on my dresser with an Amazon box underneath for extra height.
- Get a Quick Morning Run In
The mornings are one of the absolute best times to run. Not only will they be the coolest as we head into the sizzling summer months, but they also are a great time to gear up your body for a productive day. Not to mention the many mood benefits that some morning cardio can provide. To really give your body all the longevity benefits of running, use your stopwatch on your phone or watch (I prefer a cheap digital watch, leaving the phone at home) so you ensure you're getting 30 minutes of heart-healthy running. When you stop for a walk break, stop the clock and re-start when you’re back running.
- Add in After Dinner Walks
A walk at dusk sounds quite romantic doesn’t it? One side benefit of the stay-at-home order was the amount of people I saw out every evening walking around. It was unlike anything I’d ever witnessed before. With life opening back up, this is a new tradition you’ll want to keep up with well after the pandemic is behind us.
- Set a Timer to Remind You to Alternate Between Sitting and Standing
Timers are a gift to productivity. They might sound pressure-inducing, but timers actually can help us get our work done faster so we have more free time. That sounds good right? While you’re using your timer to boost your productivity, set it to remind you every hour to move to standing mode at least for 15 minutes every hour.
- Park as Far Away as Possible
I used to be an aggressive “first spot” hunter. I’d rather drive around in circles and scout for the closest spot than park farther away. But now, I’ll give those close spots to someone else and go with the quick and easy distant parking space. Just think of the stress you’ll avoid and the steps you’ll add to your day.
- Take the Stairs All..The..Time
Who wants to be in an elevator now, anyway, amiright? But welcome stairs like they are your friends, embrace the incline and seek it out.
- Tidy up every day
This is another great way to use a timer. All you need is 15 minutes a day to sweep, vacuum, wipe down surfaces, and the best part? It’s all standing, physical chores that require a little elbow grease. There’s even some evidence to show that daily housekeeping keeps us vital in our later years. So much for my goal of getting out of household chores.
- Dance, dance, dance
Even if you have two left feet (like me) new research is showing that one of the best exercises for your brain is dancing. Not only does it show cognitive benefits, but it’s also a great way to spend active quality time with your partner.
- Temptation Bundle Your Breaks
If you want to play on your phone or watch TV, do it after you’ve done a mini-workout or walked a few blocks. Little rewards make great motivators.
- Don’t Take Chores Sitting Down
Folding clothes is arduous, but you’ll get it done quicker if you’re standing up!
- Build Walk Breaks into Your Office Routine
Returning to the office after a long time at home? Make sure you add in brief walks to your office day. Skip instant messaging colleagues and get up and walk to their office or find the farthest bathroom or printer to use. Encourage meetings to be brief by having them standing up!
- Maximize Your Shopping Steps
If grocery shopping doesn’t stress you out, challenge yourself to walk up and down every aisle. You won’t forget any items, although you might over-indulge.
- Get a New Active Hobby
Add in a new outdoor hobby for summer such as tennis or badminton rather than binge watching the new streaming arrivals.
- Take Full Advantage of Warm Weather
Add a sprinkler to the backyard to run through on hot days or add a backyard sport like cornhole or ladder goal for entertainment rather than just sitting around outside.
- “Read” While You Walk
Combine activities by walking and listening to an audiobook. You’ll look forward to your walks more and you’ll catch up on some quality books too.