About one year ago, I started walking to work instead of using public transport or riding my bike. It takes me around 40 minutes for a 4 km walk across the city and I feel so vital and energized when I arrive at the office. If you know what I mean, then we’re on the same page, and if you don’t, it’s time for you to read my advice on how to incorporate more physical activity into your life on a daily basis.
Being an office worker, I know how hard it is to move throughout the day. If your job consists of sitting at a desk and starring at a computer screen all day then it’s time to change something. In a regular sedentary job, the hours of mere sitting count up to ten per day – that’s way too much! We sit down at work, during meals, for coffee, while commuting to work and finally when relaxing on the sofa in the evening. The hours add up quickly! Even going for a run or lifting weights before or after work can’t possibly make up for the ten hours we simply sat down during the day.
Before I jump into any advice on how to avoid too many hours of sitting, I would like to explain why sitting is so bad for us.
Humans are not sedentary creatures by nature. Our purpose was to hunt and gather. We are only supposed to spend little time sitting throughout the day. When sitting, electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off, calorie burning drops to 1 per minute, enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%, good cholesterol drops down 20% (after two hours), and insulin effectiveness drops by 24% while risk of diabetes rises (after 24 hours)*. People with desk jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs*. Sitting increases the risk of heart diseases, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases that may kill us prematurely.
Frankly, none of this sounds very attractive to me. For all of you who agree and for all the rest out there, here are my seven tips for increasing physical activity in your daily life:
# 1. Change your daily commute to work. Depending on your work place, there is possibly more than one option to get to work in the morning and back home in the evening. If you have the chance to ride a bike or even walk, do it! In case it’s unfeasible for you to walk all the way, skip one or two stations when using public transport. If you absolutely need to use your car, try to park as far away as possible from the office entrance. This will significantly increase your daily walking distance. Don’t fuss around with time excuses – get up earlier and literally go for it!
# 2. Interrupt your sitting periods! Stand up from your desk every 30 minutes for five minutes to stimulate your metabolism. Avoid calling your colleagues on the phone, but go to their office instead. No matter how kind the gesture, don’t let somebody bring you coffee, but do it yourself. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and volunteer for any extra task that involves motion. This way, you’ll easily add some steps to your day.
# 3. During lunchtime, many people just continue sitting when eating at a restaurant, the corporate cafeteria, or, even worse, at their desk. Remember that you should take a break for lunch, so that you can restore brain cells while focusing on other things. This will allow you to work more efficiently and productively, once you return to your desk. But while it has been proven that eating in a sedentary position is much healthier than eating while standing or walking, since it increases your awareness about what you consume and thus helps to control both the quality and quantity of the food, it’s vital to not spend the whole lunch break on a chair. Take time to nourish your body and consume food in a calm atmosphere but once you have finished eating, use the remaining time to go for a walk. Your mind and body will be grateful!
# 4. Exercise in the morning. No matter how cozy it is to slumber a little longer in the morning try to get up earlier and do some exercise before you go to work. Light stretching, Yoga, or Pilates are perfect morning exercises, as they are not too strenuous, don’t make you sweat too much and don’t overstrain your still slightly stiff joints. Once you start moving, your metabolism starts kicking in, your blood flows faster, thus nourishing your brain and muscle cells. You’ll feel vitalized and ready to tackle a new day.
“Movement is life; without movement life is unthinkable.”
# 5. Exercise in the evening. Given a regular 9-5 work schedule, the evening is the most popular time for most people to work out. I’ve been there and I know how annoying it can be, when literally every single citizen of your town is hitting the gym at 7 pm sharp and you have to wait for a treadmill, kettle-bell or any other equipment. If you want to avoid the peak hours, avoid gyms and try other sports with a limited amount of players, such as tennis, badminton, soccer, basketball, etc. Defy even bad weather and go for a run, bike ride, skate, or just play a ball game with your friends. Everything will do. Roll out your Yoga mat in your living room, garden or nearby park and exercise by yourself. There are plenty of fantastic online videos for Yoga, aerobic and other challenging workouts that you really don’t need a gym or any equipment for.
# 6. Re-discover walks. Make it a daily habit to go for a quick walk before going to bed. The movement boosts your circulation and the fresh air contributes to better sleep and thus increases your health in the long run.
# 7. Sit dynamically. Chances are low that you’ll turn your job from a sedentary into a moving one overnight. In that case, there are still options on how to sit dynamically, increase blood flow in your legs, and keep your metabolism from dropping too much. You can buy a special cushion filled with air that will keep your pelvis moving and additionally prevent you from back pain. Furthermore, change your seating position as often as possible. Alternate your legs when crossing them, stand up, or lift both feet from the floor (very efficient ab workout, by the way). This will keep you active and prevent your muscles from getting numb.
Don’t worry, I’m not perfect either and I don’t strictly apply all of these rules every day. But keep in mind that bodies are built for motion, not for sitting still, so make every step count.