Many Americans spend hours every day sitting in front of a computer. If you’re one of them, you’ve likely experienced the aches that usually accompany hours of inactivity: neck pain, back pain, exhaustion, etc. These daily irritations add up. Research shows that extended periods of sitting have been associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bowl cancer. One study found that obese people sit on average 2.5 hours more per day that fit folks. Getting active doesn’t mean you have to work on a treadmill (though that is a trend) or even slave away at the gym to counteract all those hours sitting. Instead, sneaking in a few minutes of exercise everyday is the best way to promote overall physical and mental health, and burn more calories. The good news? You may actually enjoy it. Here are 5 of our favorite ways to avoid the health hazards of sitting.
Schedule regular walks. Head outside and get moving for at least 20 minutes every day. Regular walking is shown to lower blood pressure, support weight loss and lower risk for osteoporosis. Getting outside is also great for your brain. A brief walk can melt mental fatigue, improve memory and increase creativity. If you find it difficult to block time off, consider scheduling a walk meeting. Your coworkers will thank you for forcing them to get outside.
Try some toning. Use your chair tone your quadriceps. Here’s how to do it. Sitting in your chair lift one leg off the floor and extend it straight ahead. Hold for a couple seconds; then lower your foot stopping a few inches from the floor. Hold for a several seconds. Repeat. Try to do 15 reps on each leg.
Take the stairs. Make this a hard and fast rule whenever stairs are an option. If the flight is too long, you can always start on the stairs and then jump to the elevator once your heart rate is up. In addition to burning more calories, stairs are a great way to tone your lower body since they engage the largest muscles groups. Bonus, for those with joint issues stair climbing is relatively low impact.
Reach for the sky. We’ve all experienced that neck pain that radiates between the shoulder blades after hours hunching over a keyboard. Our body is trying to tell us something, but our mind is so focused on the next project, it’s hard to pay attention. Schedule regular opportunities to stretch—especially if you’re working for long stretches uninterested. Raise both arms to the ceiling and arch your back. Follow up by gripping your desk with both hands, scooting your chair away from you desk and hanging your head between your arms.
Stand up. When you’re working on something that doesn’t require you to be sitting, try standing. Why? Getting on your feet supports blood flow which means you’ll feel more awake and energized throughout the day. It’s better for your posture and core strength, and also burns considerably more calories. For the average 180 lb person, 7 hours of sitting burns roughly 970 calories. The same time standing? A whopping 1260!