Sitting has become a big part of living in the modern world. We sit during our morning commute, for 8+ hours at the office, more sitting on the commute home, then it’s onto the couch to relax with a little late-night TV…while we sit.
A one-hour daily workout is about all most people have time for to counteract all of that sitting, but a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings revealed that a one-hour workout only combats about six hours of sedentary behavior. While avoiding long stretches of sedentary activity is all but impossible, the next best thing you can do for your health is to integrate more physical activity into your daily routine.
Since you can only move your body so much when you’re behind the wheel or on the train, it’s best to get a little more activity in your day before you even start your commute. Instead of going through the drive-through for your morning coffee, try going inside to place your order. Yes, there will most likely be a line, but those few minutes you spend in the queue are actually far better than sitting. “Standing provides better blood flow and less mobility impingement,” says Jobim Zapico, a CrossFit coach-turned-leadership coach and co-owner of Performance Revealed. “When standing vs. sitting, you are activating your abdominals. More importantly, you are not in a position (sitting) that may result in tight hamstrings, a tight thoracic spine and tight shoulders, as well as poor positioning of your hips.”
And the next time you rush to procure the last seat on the train…don’t. Standing up during your morning ride will not only burn more calories than sitting, but it will also improve circulation.
At the Office
The office is where the bulk of the day’s sitting comes into play. A treadmill workstation would be the perfect solution to the problem, but if your boss is unwilling to make such an investment you’ll have to find another solution on your own. Michael Ross, a sports medicine physician, recommends setting a timer to go off throughout the workday to remind yourself to do something…anything active. “If you get up from a chair and feel stiff after 30 minutes, set your timer for 30 minutes,” says Ross. “If you have stiffness after an hour, set the timer for one hour.” He suggests stretching periodically and making use of muscles that aren’t being engaged while you’re sitting, such as the abdominals. (For an hour-by-hour guide to working out while you’re at work, check out the “Office Exercises” on the following pages.)
Relaxing, at-home activities, such as talking on the phone or watching TV, can actually be used to get your heart pumping. The next time you pick up the phone for a chat session with your best friend, simply walk around the house or up and down the stairs while you talk. Can’t stand it when commercials come between you and your favorite TV shows? Use these breaks to squeeze in a few crunches or squats until your program returns. These tidbits of physical activity will not only strengthen your body, but they will also deepen your breath. And, according to Gabi Rose, a weight-loss, fitness and lifestyle coach, deeper breath leads to a metabolism that’s more engaged, as well as a heart and lungs that run more efficiently. It also “keeps our stress levels down and helps us rest and sleep better at night,” says Rose. When your breath and your body are operating at their highest levels, you’ll find it’s much easier to take on the challenges of the day.
Lisa Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, created the Office Power Hour Fitness plan – a series of one-minute at-the-office exercises that can help you work a little more movement in throughout your day. Set an alarm to go off every hour and follow the workout plan listed here!
9 a.m. Plank + Stretches: Hold plank position for one minute, followed by gently stretching out your chest and reaching your arms up over your head.
10 a.m. Squats: Perform squats for one minute using a stability ball or the back of your office chair.
11 a.m. Tricep Dips: Sit in your chair and slowly adjust so your hips come forward (1-2 inches) off the chair. With your palms facing down and fingertips toward the floor, bend your knees (easier) or keep them straight (advanced), while lowering your hips towards the floor by bending at your elbows. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, return to starting position by pushing up and extending your arms.
12 p.m. Stair Climb: Jog down a flight of steps lightly, then skip a step on the way back up and lunge. If you don’t have stairs available, do lunges instead.
1 p.m. Bicep Curl to Overhead Press: Place any kind of light weights in your hands (coffee mug, water bottle, stapler, etc.). With your palms facing up, bend at the elbow to a bicep curl and immediately turn palms out to a shoulder press over your head fully extending your arms. Follow with a few arm stretches.
2 p.m. Desk Push-Ups: Place your hands on the desk, keeping them slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you. Keeping your core engaged, slowly lower your chest towards the desk. Once you touch your chest to your desk exhale and begin pushing down through your hands to return to starting position.
3 p.m. Stretch: Extend both arms in front of your body and rotate your wrists clockwise, then counterclockwise. Then stretch the fingers by extending your right hand in front of you (palm facing away from the body), and using your right hand to pull the left fingers back towards the body (you should feel a slight tension in the forearms). Repeat the process with your right hand.
4 p.m. Stand and Balance: Balance on your right foot for 30 seconds, then repeat on your left foot.
5 p.m. Crunches: Lie on your back and place your hands behind your head. Pretend that you have an apple under your chin and perform a slow and controlled crunch up with a big exhale on the way up and slowly descend, keeping your core tight.
By Dana Robinson