With the decline of American manufacturing jobs and other blue collar work, more and more people spend the day in an office sitting. Now, mounting research evidence suggests that this cubicle work may be slowly killing us. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with dramatic reductions in health, even in those who exercise regularly. Thus, taking small steps to boost daily physical activity can have a profound effect on overall health.
Research About Sedentary Lifestyles
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A recent article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings described a large study that tracked 2,223 participants and their health. Analyses by cardiologists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that a sedentary lifestyle decreases overall cardiovascular fitness. The negative impact of sitting for six hours each day was a similar size to the cardiovascular benefit achieved by exercising for an hour. Thus, even those people who exercise regularly experience a significant decrement in health if they are sedentary for much of their day.
Combating a Sedentary Lifestyle
1. Little Steps Count
Few of us have the luxury of switching professions into something that incorporates more physical activity. If you’re bound to a desk all day, even small changes in your routine may benefit your long term health. Begin by becoming more conscious about the amount of time you’ve spent sitting. Every hour, get up from your desk and move around a bit. This may include pacing while you’re making a phone call, stretching for a few minutes while thinking, or taking a quick lap around the office.
2. Use a Pedometer
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To keep track of the amount of movement you get each day, consider wearing a pedometer to count your steps. For most adults, 10,000 steps is considered an appropriate daily goal. Switching to the stairs from the elevator, parking farther away, walking a bit extra each time you go to the restroom, or walking to work rather than driving are great ways to get more movement in your day.
3. Take Your Meeting Outside
Have a meeting with a coworker or two? Ask if they’d like to take a walk instead. Unless you’re tied to computers or presentation equipment, a 20-minute walking meeting is a great alternative to sitting in a conference room. If you simply can’t take an outdoor break for your meetings, consider walking for 10 minutes over your lunch break to increase your daily activity.
4. Request a Standing or Walking Desk
One of the hottest items in office design is standing or walking desks. These desks do just what their names imply: allow you to stand or walk instead of sitting all day. Although these desks aren’t for everyone, it’s worth inquiring whether your company provides this type of office furniture. If not, it’s easy to configure your own standing desk. Simply use bricks or other large, flat objects to raise your computer and keyboard higher. Standing at your desk for even a few hours per day significantly combats the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.