Earlier this week, I read the article, “Excessive Sitting Linked to Premature Death in Women.” According to the article, “Females who sat the longest and exercised the least had twice the risk of death compared with women who recorded more activity and less sitting.” In a May blog post, I wrote about another report that warned that sitting was dangerous even for regular exercisers.
Yikes! These reports concern me. I am a regular exerciser. I am also a writer and coach who sits for most of the day. After work, I often relax by, you guessed it, sitting and reading a book. Since May, I have been working on breaking my sitting habit. But, you know how it goes—when we get busy, we tend to revert to our old ways. This week’s article gave me the motivation I needed to leave my desk more often. Since many of my clients are writers and professionals who also sit all day, I thought I’d share with you some of the tools and practices that have helped me increase my daily activity level.
Get a pedometer. I have used a pedometer on and off for the past ten years. I know that to stay healthy, I need to take about 10,000 steps a day. When I started to kick the sitting habit, I wore my pedometer for a few days to get a baseline activity level. Once I had that, I could work to increase my steps each day. Most trainers recommend that exercisers increase their daily steps each week by about 500 steps per day until they reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day.
Work standing up or, better yet, walking. According to one blog I visited, you can create your own treadmill desk. I can’t watch television and walk on a treadmill without getting dizzy, so I doubt I will be getting one of these. But if you aren’t plagued by motion sickness, try this. If a treadmill desk doesn’t work for you, consider doing some of your work standing up. Because most of my coaching work is done by telephone, I now coach standing up and pacing around the house. Take a look at your daily work tasks and consider which ones you can do standing or walking.
Take chore breaks. Keep a list of small, active chores that you need to accomplish. These tasks might be the regular stuff that you do every day or week anyway, like doing laundry, washing dishes, or watering the garden. I’ve also added to my list the chores that I don’t get often enough, but that I can do easily and require some movement: vacuuming a room, cleaning out a closet, or sweeping the porch. Get up once an hour to do one of these small chores. If you tend to get lost in your work, set a timer to remind you to get up.
Take exercise breaks. When I was taking physical therapy for my neck, my PT suggested taking breaks from the computer to do the exercises she assigned. Being a compliant patient, I did what she asked. Once an hour, I got up and did my neck and shoulder stretches. Here’s the thing: not only did I feel better, my day went faster, and my writing improved. Make a list of 5-10 exercises you can do without breaking a sweat–leg lifts, the plank, maybe even downward dog. Again, set your timer and, when it rings, take a five minute exercise break.
Cultivate inefficiency. Yeah, in this multi-tasking world, inefficiency is counterintuitive. It can also help your health. When I sort mail at the dining room table, I get extra steps by walking a few pieces of mail at a time into the kitchen, where I place them in the recycling bin. Sometimes it takes six trips to eliminate the pile, but I’ve just taken more than 100 extra steps!
Do your errands on foot. We live in a pedestrian neighborhood, so I walk to the library, grocery store, book store, and pharmacy. If you are not so lucky, drive to a pedestrian neighborhood and walk to all of the stores you need to go to. Or drive to the mall and park far from the door.
Exercise. After wearing the pedometer for a few days, I realized I could never hit 10,000 steps unless I took a longer walk each day. Lately, I have been trying to take two walks a day—one in the morning and one in the evening. It helps to have a dog who needs to walk at least twice a day. Once school starts, I’ll head back to the gym for strength training as well. And get this, according to a study out of Taiwan, just 15 minutes of exercise a day will boost your life expectancy by three years. That’s less time than it takes to watch a sitcom, minus the commercials!
The extra benefit. So some of you may be wondering how you are going to get anything done if you are always getting up to exercise or pace or load the dishwasher or whatever. Here’s what I’ve found: I actually get more done. Yup. The breaks refresh me, so I spend more of my work time actually working and less of it staring into space or playing mindless games on Facebook. (That was my FB business page. Did you think I’d link you to my favorite games?)
Your turn. How do you sneak in those extra steps?