This post was inspired by a conversation I overheard on the train between two young women. One of the young women was sharing with the other that it was OK for her to sit down on the train since she had worked out. This got me thinking about how many of us sit all day long, some of us engaging in formal exercise and some not, and the toll this takes on our bodies. Since many working people have desk jobs, myself being one of them, this is an issue both important and personal to me.
With headlines claiming sitting is just as bad for our health as smoking, most of us have caught on that we need to move throughout the day—thus the onslaught of standing and treadmill desks. But for some reason people think going to the gym for an hour each day negates the effects of sitting.
Research has found that those who maintain an active lifestyle (read: move throughout the day) are at a lower risk of death than those who have a sedentary lifestyle (read: sit all day), even if they workout. In science-y terms, sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality even if the minimum physical activity guidelines are met.
The good news is that getting up and moving throughout the day can help lessen the blow of a desk job. You’ve probably heard tips like getting up to go chat with a coworker rather than sending an email, having a walking meeting rather than a seated meeting, using your break time to do something active, and so on. All of these are legitimate ways to increase your daily activity and when added together, the effect can be quite significant. My favorite tip is to keep a reusable water bottle on your desk and drink from it frequently—this way you’re staying hydrated and you get more activity by having to walk to the restroom and refill your water bottle often.
Imagine your daily activity as a bar graph—rather than having one huge spike of activity in an otherwise flat-lined day, aim for many spikes throughout the day, including formal exercise.
Check out the two scenarios below. Both assume a sedentary desk job because this is the main issue for people who sit too much, aside from leisure time (usually spent in front of a screen at home).
In scenario one, the person wakes up, drives to work, sits at their desk all day, goes to the gym, drives home, makes dinner, watches television and goes to bed. Doesn’t sound too far off from many peoples’ days, huh?
In scenario two, the person incorporates activity into their commute (by walking or biking directly to work or public transportation, parking several blocks from the office, etc.), sneaks in some activity over their lunch break (a walking meeting, midday yoga class, etc.), actively commutes home, makes dinner and is active once more before bed (walks with partner/dog/stroller/self, cleans house, etc.).
As you can see, without even stepping foot into the gym or putting on spandex, the person in scenario two has incorporated more activity into their day than the person in scenario one.
Could you imagine if the person in scenario two also engaged in formal exercise? That is the best situation—an active daily routine plus exercise to strengthen and maintain the cardiovascular and muscoskeletal systems.
How do you incorporate activity into your day? Share your tips and strategies!