We’re well aware by now that sitting for the majority of our days is bad for our health. In fact, studies have shown that being seated for more than six hours in a day can lead to increased blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. It can also be poor for our mental health.
Thing is, if you’re working 40 hours a week, that’s already more than six hours a day. And for those of us still working from home because of the pandemic, it can seem even harder to stay active than it was when we were in an office setting.
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can incorporate into your day to save your body and mind from the dangers of a sedentary work environment. Let’s take a look.
Schedule Movement Breaks Every Hour
If you used to work outside the home, then small spontaneous movements were built into your day. Things like catching the bus or walking from the parking lot, or walking somewhere to grab lunch or coffee. But when we work from home, we need to make up for that seemingly inconsequential loss of movement.
One way to do that is to just get out of your chair more.
Standing up and stretching once an hour should be the simplest thing in the world. But if your workday is anything like mine, you can glance up at the clock at 10 am and then the next time your eyes leave your computer screen it’s somehow 2 pm.
So schedule those little reminders on your phone or fitness tracker. Stand up, walk around the house a bit, grab some water, do some stretches. These little movements will add up.
Stretch When You Feel Sore
Again, this seems like it should be a no brainer, but serious tension can creep up on us when we’re sedentary, and sometimes we don’t even notice. If you’re reading this now, in fact, I’m gonna challenge you to roll your head from side-to-side, drop your shoulders, and relax your jaw.
See? You didn’t even know you were holding that tension.
Make a concerted effort to do this several times a day. And when you feel tension in your head, neck, or back, get up and do some stretches. Touch your toes, get into child’s pose, or lie on your back and draw your knees to your chest.
You’re in your own home. Who’s going to see you that matters? I promise, your cat won’t mind.
Stand As Much as Possible
In addition to getting up during mini breaks, it’s beneficial to try and do some work while standing. If you’ve got an actual standing desk, awesome. If not, try setting up at your kitchen counter and see if that works for you. (Depending on how tall you are, you might need to stack your computer on a pile of books so that you’re not hunching over.)
You might find yourself more alert and focused during the day, not to mention limber as you’ll constantly be stretching your legs and shifting from side to side. If it seems like a good fit for you, there are tons of standing desk options out there.
Most companies allow for small 10-15 minute breaks in addition to lunch. But if we’re by ourselves at home, it can be easy to just breeze on through them without noticing.
So schedule them in. (Noticing a theme here?)
Take a 15-minute walk around the block, or just go wander around outside for a bit, weather permitting. Get a little gardening sesh in if that’s your thing. Just get away from that computer and move your legs.
If you’re too slammed to get outside (it happens) try to get up and walk around during office meetings. This is a no brainer for phone conferences. Though I suppose it might be a little distracting for your co-workers during zoom calls.
Find an Activity You Love
All those micro-movements throughout the day are important, but you still need dedicated exercise throughout the week. And at the end of a long day, sometimes jumping on the Peloton just doesn’t sound doable. So find something you love to do, so it’s something you actually look forward to during the day.
Maybe that’s a socially distanced yoga class. Maybe it’s time in the garden. For me, it’s walking at a particular nearby park with a small lake filled with ducks, geese, turtles, and heron. When I’m there I don’t feel like I’m working out, so it’s the first thing I want to do when I shut my computer at night.
But then again, maybe you’re someone who loves running two miles after work. In which case, you’ve already got a leg up on the rest of us chair potatoes.