Before there were gyms, treadmills, and sneakers, there was simple, human movement. And just about every day, all day, throughout human history, humans did a lot of it, to survive, to locate water, food, and perhaps the neighbors. Fast forward a few millennia and everyday movement has all but ground to a halt. Most of us are sitting, immobilized for hours at a time, making stiffness and limited mobility the new, terribly unhealthy normal. But it gets worse: the sedentary lifestyle is downright dangerous. It’s associated with increased cancer risk, depression, lower cognitive ability, pre-diabetic blood sugar levels (even if you’re at a healthy weight), diminished sex life and reproductive health, sleep disruption and insomnia, disk degeneration and the resulting back pain. Need we say more?
In short, there’s no upside to all that time spent on your duff (even if you do get regular exercise), so it’s time to get real about integrating movement – and lots of it – back into your day. Doing so will enable your body to carry yourself comfortably through life for as long as possible. And if you’re also able to fit in some regular biking, swimming, dancing, etc., along the way, then so much the better – that’s more movement money in your health bank. To get you back into a more physical groove, here are my top 20 painless ways to work more movement into your day:
PUT MORE MOTION IN YOUR COMMUTE:
- Get off the bus or subway a stop or two before your destination and walk the rest of the way. Or, if you have the option to walk, cycle, skateboard or scoot to work – realize how lucky you are and use your own engine as often as possible.
- If walking or cycling all the way to work isn’t feasible, try a combo approach, at least part of the way. For example, get off the bus a few stops prior to your destination and walk the rest of the way, or bike to the train station in the morning instead of driving.
- For those who commute by public transport, instead of being perturbed when there’s nowhere to sit, think of it as an opportunity to engage your core, and cut a half hour or so off your daily, sitting-way-too-much tally.
MOVE IT — ALL OVER THE OFFICE:
- Check emails standing up – and type replies sitting down.
- Dial calls standing up; sit down to have the conversation to avoid annoying cube mates.
- Hold meetings standing up or walking, to naturally keep conversations shorter, and to make quick exits from long-winded bosses or co-workers easier too. Walking actually stimulates the exchange of information between the hemispheres of the brain, so meetings that include movement may encourage creativity.
- Wear a headset on conference calls so you can comfortably stand, walk around the conference room, or even do a few squats. As long as you’re not on a video call, your colleagues in Topeka will be none the wiser.
- Keep circulation flowing by setting an alarm on your phone or fitness tracker to go off every 30 minutes or so to remind you to do a 2-minute lap around the office.
- Sip on healthy drinks like water, herbal teas or green drinks throughout the day to keep you hydrated in those dry office environments and to encourage more frequent strolls to the restroom.
- Order your lunch but go pick it up in person instead of having it delivered.
- Brown-bagging it? Then take a 10-minute walk around the office neighborhood or parking lot before tucking into your lunch.
- Instead of emailing, go old school – walk over to your colleague’s desk. (A shocking idea, I know.)
- Get out of your chair and walk to reception to meet visitors, instead of just ‘sending them in’ or having the assistant collect them.
MAKE YOUR OFFICE EQUIPMENT MOVE YOU:
- In this era of shared office printers, always select the one that’s the furthest away from your desk to boost your daily step count.
- Insist that your boss install a ‘sit-to-stand’ desk riser to enable you to work standing up or seated which, you can tell them, has been proven to increase productivity. Whenever you set the riser to stand and get off your behind, you’ll increase blood flow, wake up your metabolism and engage your muscles.
- Use an ergonomic chair, preferably one that allows movement, like my top-of-the-line Swopper stool or a large exercise ball (sized to allow you to keep your thighs parallel to floor with flat feet). These seats engage your core, keep circulation going, and enliven your nervous system because you have to make constant micro-movements to maintain your posture.
TRY A FEW OFF-HOUR MOVES:
- Got little kids? Then you probably can appreciate the joys of tiring them out so, after-hours, take them for a walk to roam and explore, while you give yourself the gift of movement. Got older ones? Take them out for a walk too, to get in a little screen-free bonding time.
- For those after-work errands, park in the far end of the parking lot and carry your groceries instead of rolling them to your car. Skip drive-thru banking and by-pass drive-thru restaurants, or anyplace with curb-side service – all are missed opportunities for movement! Get out of the car and move thru your errands instead of driving thru ‘em.
- Embrace the idea of the ‘micro session,’ as in, do any kind of movement for ten minutes at least once or twice a day. Ten minutes can change your state of mind and body completely—it’s just three songs on a pop playlist.
- Make movement a social event. Instead of catching up with friends over cocktails and nachos, meet them for a power-walk, a bike ride or a yoga class. You can always grab a healthy snack afterwards!