Sitting is killing us. Literally.
In a country where over 55% of us are classified as “sedentary” [i] on a regular basis, it’s scary to know just how intensely such a lack of movement can affect our health and well-being. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please stop reading this article and CHECK OUT THIS ONE FIRST.
Great. Now to apply the awesome science of that article…
Think of yourself as your favorite sports car.
Whatever make and model just popped into your head, would it make sense for you to own such a miracle of modern machinery and then – instead of taking it on a scenic thrill ride daily – you let it idle in your front yard all day? Picture it in all its glory, humming like a predatory feline next to your mailbox. Wanting to be driven somewhere awesome. Anywhere really – just to be moving. Nonetheless, there it idles all day. All night.
Aside from not being great for the environment, such an idle existence (no pun intended) will degrade even the most technologically advanced engine. Eventually a few weeks later after a couple hundred tanks of premium gas and at least 30 quarts of synthetic oil from all that running without actually doing anything, your beautiful sports car will break down. No more thrilling, stress-relieving Sunday rides for you!
Granting that you shouldn’t take this analogy too far, apply this principle to your body. It is, after all, a truly amazing machine. But even with premium fuel, it needs to move.
Without taking your body for a spin regularly, you will break down. Hormones, metabolism, cells, digestion, excretion, flexibility, coordination, muscle development, mental acuity, even the size of your cerebellum (your brain’s structural resilience against Alzheimer’s and dementia) depend on you getting up from your seat and propelling yourself in some way through 3-dimensional space. Not just 1 step/day. Think 10,000 steps/day. Or, if you sleep 8 hours each night (you better!), think of it as only 10 steps/minute on average.
All that is well and good, right? It’s important to understand the WHY, but what about the HOW? How, Alex, can I get 10,000 steps/day to keep my body in good condition with all of my daily tasks, sedentary job, and family obligations? Let’s get practical here. None of these fixes are magic or rocket science…but we can consider them strategic LIFE HACKS.
Now we’re talking….
Office Life Hacks
Let’s start with the office. Since most of us have relatively sedentary computer, phone or people-facing jobs, this is our greatest opportunity for change.
Institute Water Breaks.
Keep a 20 oz bottle of water at your desk and drain it 4 times daily. Simple enough, but how does drinking water help you move?
First of all, hydration is important for proper metabolic function. [ii] So, there’s that. (This could be an article in and of itself.)
Think of it this way though. The more you drink, the more you will need to get up to use the bathroom! You know that email you HAVE TO SEND but just can’t wait? Guess what will take priority when your bladder decides it’s time to go? Use your normal bodily functions to force you to prioritize movement in your day. Take the choice out of the equation entirely.
Is your nearest bathroom too close to matter? Go to a different one on another floor. And, hey, maybe you’ll even get a chance to meet a few unfamiliar people you’ve worked with for a while but never knew.
Take a “Walking Lunch.”
Everyone has heard of and probably taken a “working lunch” at their desks. I propose that directly following your bite to eat, you get up and take a 10-minute walk. Not only will it make you more productive to unplug from your work for a while, but 10 minutes of walking will contribute to the steps you need all while aiding better digestive and metabolic function.[iii] Three birds with one stone.
Start a Contest.
Motivated by competition? (Most of us are.)
Find others in your workplace who also wear activity monitors and are trying to be healthy. Challenge them during the week to beat your step count. You might be surprised at how many people want to join the game. You might be equally surprised at how seriously such a competition is taken in the workplace!
The last time I did this, I remember being on a group conference call. Five out of the 7 people in the room were pacing conspicuously around the table all in an attempt to be the one with the most steps by the end of the call. We all got nearly 2000 of our 10,000 steps in during that hour and (BONUS!) it made a potentially boring meeting more fun and engaging.
The reward? Bragging rights? Health? Each person could even put $10 in “the pot” at the beginning of the week. The one with the most steps wins. Let the games begin….
Home Front Life Hacks
Recharge with a Jaunt.
Henry David Thoreau wrote an excellent essay once upon a time called “Walking.” Within its lines he meanders – presumably as if walking through the woods and open fields of his hometown – from topic to topic in an inner dialogue wherein he reaffirms his life purposes, works out his political disposition, and even explores improving his personal relationships to better reflect his overarching life intentions.
Even if you’re not looking to ponder existential questions or define your take on political activism, you can benefit from taking a walk at some point in the evening when you get home. If Thoreau were still around, he would likely say that far too many of our countrymen and women turn on Netflix or Hulu and space out under the impression that they are spending time with partners or family.
Get them outside with you and move together. Trust me when I say everyone will benefit. And you may even enjoy it more than that rerun of Breaking Bad…
Pick Active Family Dates.
Tour a museum together. Go to a sports event. Putt putt. Hike something. Go to Life Time. There are so many active things you can do as a family (or as an individual if you find yourself a party of one). Bringing the kids to the park to let them burn some energy? Get in some steps rather than sitting on the bench.
I know…it can be exhausting to be a parent. But if you’re already struggling to fit activity into your day, sitting at the park while they make you jealous of their energy will only drain you more. Start by standing up. I think you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel.
Walk and Talk.
Catching up with that friend you haven’t seen in a while? Waiting on hold for the phone company to credit you that charge they mistakenly put on your bill? Instead of passing the time sitting on the couch, get up and move!
One of the beautiful things about the 21st century is that we are never tethered to the wall during a call anymore. Heck, many of us are hands-free, so we don’t even have to hold the thing. Whether it’s pacing around the house or traversing a good walkway nearby, walk and talk next time.
Because why stop at six ideas?
Walk around between sets during resistance training rather than sitting on your bench/machine. Do your homework on a slow-moving treadmill. Skip the Starbucks drive-thru, and go inside instead (but watch that sugar intake!). Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park in the back of the parking lot. Use apps like Stand Up! or Spin It to add fun and randomness to the hum-drum of your day.
And an old favorite…take a “victory lap” around the grocery store when you’re done collecting the items on your list. (Watch out, however: some activity monitors have trouble reading your steps when you’re pushing a cart.)
Time to Get Moving
Truly, we all have a lot to do in a day. Some of it is active, but most of it is not.
Know how important it is to move in order to be healthy and to have the energy to do the things that require your attention. Then, employ these hacks to remake your sedentary patterns into a more active life.
You’re a performance vehicle after all, and today is a beautiful day to take you for a spin.
Are you interested in adding more movement to your day? Talk with a fitness professional, who can offer additional ideas that fit your individual lifestyle and personal goals.
If you want to learn more about how we design our programs to support fitness and performance using our Core 3 Training™ methodologies
Download the Core 3 Training Manual.
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[i] A. Bergouignan , Rudwill F., Simon C., Blanc S, “Physical inactivity as the culprit of metabolic inflexibility: evidence from bed-rest studies,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(4), 1201-1210, 2011 [ii] González-Alonso, José, Ricardo Mora-Rodríguez, Paul R. Below, Edward F. Coyle. “Dehydration markedly impairs cardiovascular function in hyperthermic endurance athletes during exercise “Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 April 1997 Vol. 82 no. 4, 1229-1236. [iii] Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8(2), 106.
[i] A. Bergouignan , Rudwill F., Simon C., Blanc S, “Physical inactivity as the culprit of metabolic inflexibility: evidence from bed-rest studies,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(4), 1201-1210, 2011
[ii] González-Alonso, José, Ricardo Mora-Rodríguez, Paul R. Below, Edward F. Coyle. “Dehydration markedly impairs cardiovascular function in hyperthermic endurance athletes during exercise “Journal of Applied Physiology Published 1 April 1997 Vol. 82 no. 4, 1229-1236.
[iii] Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8(2), 106.