Don’t just sit there!
Sure, you’re active at the gym. What about the day’s other 23 hours?
Honest, now—raise your hand if you think trips to the health club a few times a week are enough. And while your hand is up, get the rest of you up too.
Fact is, prolonged periods of sitting— the kind we screen-addicted, trafficsnarled folks experience every day—can be harmful to your health, even if you sweat and grunt at the gym regularly.
The latest news on the subject comes from a study done at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, which found that sitting for four hours or more each day significantly increased a person’s risk for diabetes and heart disease. The researchers learned that people who exercised as much as 150 minutes a week were still spending up to nine hours a day sitting, putting them at risk—to some degree—for the same ills as true couch potatoes.
“A sedentary lifestyle is a huge hazard— it increases the risk for obesity, heart disease, even things like cancer,” says Michael Gross, M.D., a Hackensack-based orthopedist who is the author of Get Well Soon: A Doctor’s Guide to Health and Wellness (Maximilian). “You need movement to get your blood flowing and to help your lymphatic system carry toxins away. Exercise also releases endorphins, which relieve stress.”
Dr. Gross suggests finding opportunities to add moments of healthy exertion to your day. “That would include using the stairs instead of the elevator, doing yard work—anything that gets your heart rate up a bit and helps you break a sweat.”
Fortunately, the remedy for too much sitting is within easy reach, requiring, in most cases, little to no money or equipment. It’s a matter of seizing the moment.
You’ve probably read recommendations to park farther than needed from your destination in order to make a bit of walking necessary. Here are a dozen more ways to incorporate more activity into your routine:
- Suggest “walking meetings” instead of sit-down meetings.
- Bring comfortable shoes and walk in the parking lot or around a nearby mall at lunchtime.
- Keep small fitness tools in your desk: five-pound dumbbells or TheraBands. Tie a band to the arm of a chair and pull it over your head as if stretching up to the ceiling.
- Raise your computer so you can stand while working at it. If possible, invest in a treadmill desk ($700 and up) so you can keep moving while answering emails.
- Stand and do leg stretches while talking on the phone.
- Instead of calling or emailing a colleague in your building, walk over and have a conversation in person.
- Get up to change the TV channel.
- Take the dog for longer walks.
- Fold laundry while standing up and watching TV. Make more than one trip to put laundry away.
- Wash dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher.
- Walk the sidelines instead of sitting while watching children’s sports.
- Do wall pushes while waiting for coffee to brew.
Use a fitness monitor to stay motivated
Simple, discreet devices that monitor your daily activity can help you set and reach goals for increasing healthy exertion. Fitbit has a popular line, including wristband and clip-on versions ($60 to $130; fitbit.com). It tracks steps taken, calories burned, and more; iPhone and Android apps let you track your progress throughout the day, set goals and even share with friends. With a Philips Activity Monitor ($199; directlife.philips.com), you’ll get help setting goals and a personalized website that records your activity and makes suggestions. The BodyMedia Fit Link, as seen on the NBC TV show The Biggest Loser, is worn on the upper arm and has multiple sensors to measure not only movement, but also heat flux, skin temperature and sweat ($119; bodymedia.com). Looking to keep your monitoring old school—and inexpensive? A decent step pedometer can be had for less than $10.