When you’re confined to a desk for hours on end throughout the workday, squeezing exercise into your routine can be challenging. The result? You feel sluggish and weary, and you function well below your best.
According to the Baker Institute, prolonged periods of sitting have been linked to higher risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, while a long-term study by The American Cancer Society found that people who sit for more than six hours per day have a higher mortality rate than those who sit for shorter periods. In fact Dr Alpa Patel, who led the 14-year study, reported that those who spent long periods of time sitting exhibited high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting blood glucose – the key biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
With the average Aussie spending around nine hours per day parked in a chair, these findings are certainly alarming. The upshot is, if you make a few small, yet consistent, changes throughout your workday, you can improve your fitness, boost your energy levels and even become more productive.
Here are five simple tips you can try this week, to beat those sedentary blues…
- Leave the car at home
Your daily fitness habits begin before you get to work, with your commute. A 2014 Melbourne study suggested that incidental exercise could prove to be life-saving, and found the average Melbournian using public transport averages 35 minutes per day of incidental exercise, versus 8-10 minutes for those who commute by car. If driving is your only option, try parking a few hundred metres further away, to nudge up your daily step count.
- Take regular breaks from sitting
By simply getting up and moving around every half hour or so, you can reduce your risk of the negative effects that come with sedentary behaviour. It doesn’t have to be a full-on workout – even standing up for 30 seconds of stretching is beneficial, so set a calendar reminder to prompt you to stand and stretch every 30-60 minutes. Not only will it improve your posture, circulation and fitness, it will also give your eyes a well-deserved break from staring at the computer screen, and help you to re-focus on your work.
- Use a standing desk
Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular in Australian workplaces, but they’re far more than just another hipster fad. There are several brands of variable-height desks on the market, all of which claim they can help your fitness and posture. However, research from the University of Waterloo in Canada suggests that a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 of sitting time to standing time is the most beneficial. In other words, for optimum comfort and productivity, you should aim to stand up for one hour for every hour or two you spend sitting. You may also find any pain in your back and neck may improve.
- Use your lunch break to exercise
It could be as simple as a short stroll around a nearby park while you eat lunch, or a 10-minute saunter around the carpark while you make a phone call – anything that gets your heart pumping is beneficial. If a full-on midday workout isn’t feasible, try to fit some incidental exercise in before or after your shift, like hopping off the train one stop early and walking the rest of the way. Just be sure to wear appropriate footwear – power walking in office heels can lead to a world of pain.
- Get up and move whenever you can
Instead of calling or emailing your colleague upstairs, hop up and deliver the message in person. Or, offer to do the morning coffee run, and enjoy an extra break from the office monotony while sneaking in some unexpected activity.
Every inch of movement and exercise adds up, so take advantage of any opportunity you have to take the stairs instead of the lift. It will all help you as you reach toward that illusive, health-boosting target of 10,000 steps per day. A little bit goes a long way!