The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in four American adults sit for more than eight hours a day. This may not be surprising as our society continues to shift toward a more sedentary lifestyle.
Though modern transportation has allowed for more flexibility in the distance between where you live and where you work, it has limited the amount of activity that’s naturally built into everyday life. A morning commute to a desk job, followed by a commute home and finished off with a couple of hours in front of the television at night amounts to a lot of sitting.
So why does this matter? Humans are made to move. Activity burns more calories, keeping weight in check, and improves muscle tone. Stretching reduces the risk of injury and improves flexibility and circulation. Moreover, movement can help keep chronic illness at bay. Numerous studies have shown a link between a sedentary lifestyle and increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers.
While exercise doesn’t completely negate the effect of sitting too much, breaking up the time you spend seated can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and repetitive stretch injuries. Here are some ideas for boosting your daily activity:
- Set a timer to get up from your desk and move around every hour.
- Walk during meetings and phone calls, if possible.
- Switch between sitting positions, preferably to standing, while at your desk.
- Complete desk stretches between tasks.
- Evaluate whether you can make your commute active, such as riding a bike to work.
- Find out if your company offers flexible schedules to squeeze in a workout class at lunchtime.
- Join a virtual yoga class at lunch.
There’s nothing wrong with relaxing on the couch and watching a favorite film, but too much of it can contribute to too much sitting. Here are some fun ways to get active during your free time:
- Rent a kayak with family or friends — though kayaking is done in a seated position, the entire body is engaged for movement.
- Plan out walking or jogging routes to explore new areas where you live.
- Find a local park and explore courts and fields for family sports such as tennis, basketball or baseball.
- Explore yard games online or at local stores.
For even more benefits, combine activity during work breaks with time in nature or outside. It can provide a mental health boost, and help reduce stress and fatigue.
Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family.
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