For millions of Americans, the workday doesn't provide much opportunity for physical activity.
You might spend an hour or two sitting in a car, bus or train getting to and from the office. Once there, you are seated at a desk staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Then, there are the meetings.
It's not only a recipe for weight gain, but health researchers have recently worried that all that sitting is taking a toll on health. Lack of activity increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and poor circulation.
“In turn, this increases the chances for heart attack, stroke and even death,” said Dr. Daniel Vigil, associate clinical professor at UCLA medical school. “Moving throughout the day can help reduce those risks.”
How much exercise do you need?
The American Heart Association has recommended 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise to counteract hours of sitting, but there are alternatives. You could engage in low-level exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to achieve the same result, Vigil says.
And we're talking extremely low-level exercise – things you don't really have to plan, you just work them into your daily routine. Here are some of Vigil's suggestions:
- Move your wastebasket so that you have to get up to toss your trash or move items within hands' reach farther away
- Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing or calling
- Walk to the water cooler throughout the day
- Take the stairs to a restroom on another floor
- Do not work through lunch at your desk. Instead, take a break and you will return to work more productive.
Just part of the day
Vigil says any time that you can build steps into your work routine, it helps. Parking as far from the building entrance as possible is an easy way to get in more walking. So is taking the stairs.
If your office is on the 19th floor, you don't have to climb 19 flights of steps. Start with two flights and stop and take the elevator the rest of the way. As you build your stamina, you can increase the number of floors.
Vigil says climbing stairs is an excellent way to build in quick bursts of exercise over the course of the day, getting you to your daily work exercise total faster.
To keep you focused on daily exercise, consider purchasing a wearable fitness monitor that counts steps and distance. You can also use apps to remind you to move throughout the work day.
Vigil says taking small breaks and refreshers at regular intervals throughout the workday greatly improves efficiency and overall health.