Even though we seem busier than ever, many Americans are spending a significant portion of their day seated—be it in front of a computer screen, at a desk, or during long commutes. While this sedentary lifestyle may seem like the norm for a modern job, its consequences on our health are alarming. Total sedentary time and in particular, long periods of uninterrupted sedentary time, has been linked to various health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular problems, and even mental health concerns.
The bad news? Even high levels of exercise (4-6+ hours per week) does not seem to overcome long bouts of sedentary behavior (6-8 hours per day).
The good news? By adding non-exercise physical activity into your day (as well as intentional exercise), it’s possible to counteract the effects of a predominantly sedentary job.
The goal: 7,500 – 10,000 steps per day on top of 150-300 minutes of moderate-to-high intensity exercise per week. Here’s how to get it.
Embrace movement breaks.
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to combat the adverse effects of sitting is to introduce regular movement breaks throughout the day. Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up, stretch, or take a short walk every hour. Initiate walking meetings and suggest standing or walking breaks during brainstorming sessions. These breaks not only reduce the physical strain caused by sitting but also boost circulation and mental alertness.
Incorporate desk exercises.
Who says exercising has to be done in a gym? There are plenty of exercises that can be performed right at your desk. Simple stretches, chair squats, or leg raises can help activate muscles that remain dormant while sitting. Incorporating resistance bands can add even more variety to your desk workout routine.
Invest in ergonomics.
An often-overlooked aspect is the setup of your workspace. Investing in an ergonomic chair, standing desk, or even a balance ball chair can significantly improve posture and reduce the strain on your body. Ergonomic accessories like keyboard trays, monitor stands, and footrests can also contribute to a more comfortable and healthy work environment while sitting. Depending on the task at hand, a desk treadmill can be a great way to add more movement into your work day.
Prioritize physical activity outside of work.
Make a conscious effort to engage in physical activities outside of work hours. Whether it’s hitting the gym, going for a run, practicing yoga, or taking up a sport, incorporating regular exercise into your routine is crucial for overall health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise most days of the week to counterbalance the effects of prolonged sitting. Grab one of our 12-Week Strength Programs if you need a great place to start!
Listen to your body.
Above all, pay attention to your body’s signals. If you feel discomfort or pain, address it promptly. Either of our providers at The Body Lab can provide tailored advice and exercises to mitigate any issues related to prolonged sitting.
By implementing these strategies and making conscious choices to move more throughout the day, it’s possible to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary job. Small changes can yield significant improvements in overall health and well-being. Remember, it’s not about eliminating sitting entirely but finding a healthy balance between movement and work that works best for you.