Are you comfortable, sitting down.. reading this? Well don’t be! Research shows that long hours of sitting can cause health problems like obesity, high blood pressure, accumulation of abdominal fat and an elevated lipid profile. Sitting for a long time at a stretch can result in a bad posture, neck and lower back pain. Some studies have even said that sitting is as injurious to health as smoking! This may sound harsh, but it is true.
We spend almost 5-6 hours at office sitting, we then travel home, zone out in front of the TV and head to bed after dinner. Those of us who manage to get exercise into our daily routine… well, that may seem to take the edge off the amount of time we sit. Well, the bad news is, the benefits of exercise do not combat the long hours we spend sitting and being sedentary.
Our body is made for activity and exercises. Just look at how many joints we have! It is important that we do not get glued to our chairs once we start work in office.
Sitting for long hours can cause health as well as postural problems.
• When you sit for long periods of time, your body automatically starts to slouch. This affects your core muscles and tightens your hips and muscles in the pelvic girdle
• Back pain is a common complaint amongst those with sedentary desk jobs. This is because when you sit for a long time, the back muscles tend to tighten and get constricted. The spinal cord gets compressed as well.
• Getting too comfortable on your chair also leads to weight gain which places an added burden on your joints. This especially affects your knees and ankles leading to pain and swelling.
• Sitting for a long time drains you of energy making you feel lethargic. Yes, as strange as it may seem! Moving around helps activate muscle groups. It also improves blood circulation throughout the body. Your brain needs a steady supply of oxygen rich blood for its proper functioning. By getting some exercise or by doing light stretches, you are actually boosting your alertness and concentration.
What can we do? How do we ‘stand up’ for ourselves?
Get more activity into your day by trying out the following quick tips. This will serve to get you moving and could be an eye opener to your actual activity and exercise levels.
1. Walk over to your colleague’s desk, rather than exchanging information over an e-mail or phone call.
2. Devices like pedometers can help track the number of steps you take in a day. And the results may be surprising. We often tend to overestimate the amount of time we spend in exercise or physical activity. However, these devices give us a clear understanding of the ‘actual’ number of steps we take. Aim for 5000 or more steps a day and gradually work up to 10,000 steps a day. Monitoring how many steps you take can be a great motivator to get up and move. You don't need a fancy activity tracker with a gazillion functions. A simple pedometer will do.
3. Beat the afternoon slump by taking stairs, doing light stretches, going for a walk after lunch or walking over to the filter for a glass of water.
5. If you have a gym at office, try exercising there as well. 45 minutes of moderate physical activity on at least 5 days of the week is good for your health. During your coffee break do not grab a cup of coffee and go to your desk. Instead try and do some light exercise at the gym or spend those 10 minutes climbing stairs. If possible, you can even go for a walk in the office campus. This break away from your office setting can make you feel more refreshed and relaxed.
6. Try following the 20-8-2 rule. It goes like this- for every 20 minutes of sitting, get up and stand for eight minutes and move around for two minutes.
7. These changes may seem a bit overwhelming to put into place. But setting a reminder or alarm initially can help get things set during the initial days. Afterwards it will become a habit and you will be able to do them as part of your daily routine.
8. Encourage your colleagues to join you for walks as well. Walking meetings can help you stay active.
9. Try leaving home a bit early, so you can walk to the bus stop or the main road and catch a cab there, rather than asking them to come to your doorstep.
10. When you reach home, try and keep active here as well. Instead of watching TV, play with your children. Try and take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you have pets, take them out for a walk.
It is important that we find excuses to be physically active. This will help us fight being sedentary all the time! Take these ‘steps’ for a happier and healthier tomorrow!
With inputs from: