Today, most people spend their days hunched over a keyboard, staring at a screen, sitting for the biggest portion of their day. Between deskbound jobs, college classes, and our desire to unwind with a couple of hours of TV after a hard day, it can all add up to a minimum of 51 hours a week spent sedentary. If you work from home, you may not even be as active as others. Instead, you move from bed to desk to kitchen to bathroom, with your only active time walking between them.
By now, surely you know that spending all that time sitting down is not good for your health. Extreme sedentary lifestyle became so detrimental to our health that people say sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies were designed for movement, for walking and standing. Each day spent sitting causes your body to adapt and suffer to accommodate this new lifestyle.
Common Problems Caused by Sitting
A sedentary lifestyle can cause many problems in our body, including:
- High blood pressure
- Back pain
- Weight gain
- Poor blood circulation
- Fluid retention (feet swelling)
- Joint calcification
There are numerous other problems that can also come from sitting. It’s not difficult to counteract these effects, but you must put in the effort. Exercising two times a week is not going to cut it. Paying attention to your daily activity and how much time you spend sitting will make a difference, however.
In the Morning
Before you set your feet on the ground, try starting your day with some gentle, easy yoga stretches. Stretching your body and simple movement can boost your energy levels, and be done in bed, making it great for first thing in the morning without breaking a sweat.
If you commute to work, consider yourself lucky. Your commute makes you more active than some, by way of walking to and from the car or bus. If you don’t own a car and walk to work, then you’re really doing great, as this gives you a great amount of activity built into every day.
If you work from home, you’ll have to put in a little extra effort to ensure some activity in your day. Start with a simple morning warmup. Take just five minutes before you start working to slowly move every part of your body below the neck in a circle. Even better, grab your coffee in a travel mug and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
Throughout the Day
Staying active during the day can be easy to forget. But taking frequent breaks is critical not only for your physical health but also mentally. We’re far less productive when our activity level drops.
If you’re in college, you have the benefit of getting up and moving around between classes or taking bathroom breaks. If you’re working, you may need the help of some digital reminders to get up and away from the desk. Try scheduling a break once per hour, stand up and move around for at least five minutes. Also, consider getting a standing desk as an alternative to sitting all day, without having to remember when to move around.
After the Day is Done
Once classes or your work day is over, the temptation is strong to head home and veg out in front of the TV – or maybe hit the books and get a lot of studying done. Maybe you even have a second wind and have the time and energy to work out now. This is great, but don’t overdo it. Staying active into the evening is important, but it’s also important to do it the right way.
If you sit all the time, your spine, knees, and other joints aren’t going to be prepared for major workouts. As your posture gets more and more out of whack from constant sitting, you’ll be more prone to injury from working out.
Walking can be a great way to start reversing the damage. It will help your posture and your eyesight, as your eyes rest by looking into the distance. It’s easy on the joints, and you can start small. Start with short walks daily, and add on another block or another mile every few days. As your body adapts and you feel your muscles regaining their strength, you can add other types of exercise, such as jogging, biking, or weightlifting, into the mix.
If you’re in college, leverage that to your advantage. Your school probably has a pool or gym available that students can use. Look for other healthy activities on and off campus that are sponsored by the school for staying healthy, such as marathons, field days, and similar activities.
Swimming can be an ideal activity for regaining your posture. It re-adjusts the cervical spine, or neck, and if you have lower back pain, it’s easier on your knees than jogging.
It’s important to remember that this is not about having the perfect beach body. Spending most of your time sitting down breaks down the body and causes damage, and the suggestions provided here are to help counteract that damage and slow down the negative effects of spending most of your time sitting down. Desk jobs are difficult and energy-draining, and anything you can do to break that pattern and unplug from the computer can help. Just three minutes for a few times a day can make you feel better, be more productive, and prevent major injury.