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Fitter for Life - Stop Sitting Down so Much

by Carrie Schmitz(more info)

listed in back pain, originally published in issue 239 - July 2017

Summer is coming and with it, the anticipation of beach holidays in far flung places. For many, the onset of Summer also means the start of the ‘beach body diet,’ which tends to consist of all-or-nothing goals that we can’t possibly keep and, rather like New Year resolutions, within the space of a few weeks, they’re forgotten about. How many of you were the proud recipients of wearable devices for Christmas?  And so, armed (literally!) with a new found ability to monitor energy expended, calories burned and steps climbed, did you vow to ‘get fit’ in 2017?

Why do we set ourselves these unrealistic goals?

Woman at Sit-Stand Desk

While I think these devices serve a purpose and can be useful in terms of an overall approach to fitness, I think there’s a much simpler solution to driving a better health outcome for life, rather than a specific moment in time. The answer?  Stop sitting down so much.  That’s right, it’s that simple! Stop sitting down quite so much and commit to being more mobile for life!.  And guess what, it’s a resolution you can keep for life, too!

It’s an obvious point but one that few are heeding.  Don’t believe me?  Consider this. When the world’s eminent physicist, Stephen Hawking, (http://www.sciencealert.com/stephen-hawking-we-eat-too-much-and-move-too-little) decides to advise us to be more active, maybe we should start listening.  His speech at the end of last year about the future of the human race was immensely thought provoking but his comment that “for what it’s worth, how being sedentary has been a major health problem is beyond my understanding” really resonates.

Shadow_WorkFit_yoga

As we approach the Summer holiday season, thoughts turn to ways in which we can cram in extra hours in the gym either before or after work.  But while moderate to vigorous activity is important and necessary, it doesn’t, however, offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.  Indeed, explains Genevieve Healy, PhD  “We’ve become so sedentary, that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of eight, nine or ten hours of sitting.”  But if, like the majority of the nation, you have an office-based job, it’s not an easy issue to address.

So, what’s the answer?

Tools to Plan Your Space

Tools to Plan Your Space

Adopt a ‘movement mindset’ throughout the day. More movement rather than short bursts of vigorous activity, can have significant positive impact on your health. You don’t have to interrupt your work day to exercise, only interrupt sedentary time with low-intensity movement, like standing up more. Intense workouts can happen outside of the workday or on weekends.

Desk Conversion and  Full SitStand Desks

Here are some simple, yet sustainable tips for adopting a ‘movement mindset’ for life:

  • Walk more at work: try parking your car further away from the office, take the stairs rather than the lift, take the long route to the bathroom;
  • Keep movement going throughout the day by rotating postures at the office or by using a sit-stand desk.;
  • Try a sit-stand desk!  The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy recognizing potential risks of prolonged sitting and encourage making alternatives to sitting available, such as standing work stations or adjustable desks. This increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow and ramps up metabolism;
  • While computing, set a timer for every 30-45 minutes to remind you to stand up and stretch.  Use this time to clear your work area;
  • Stand up to make phone calls.  This can often result in a better outcome on the call as standing can lead to better decision making in this authoritative stance!
  • Avoid sitting on long commutes - try standing on the bus or train;
  • Don’t send email to someone sitting near you; go over and talk to them;
  • Stand or exercise while you watch TV, or at least walk around or do chores during the commercial breaks.

To conclude, by all means, keep up with your gym workout, but more importantly, make a simple pledge to yourself, (and one that will cost you absolutely nothing), to stand up more and sit less in the future.  Trust me, your back, your overall health, and even your doctor, will thank you.  Here’s to a less sedentary Summer!

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About Carrie Schmitz

Carrie Schmitz AOEAS CHC Senior Manager of Human Factors & Ergonomics Research at Ergotron, has specialized in computer ergonomics and office wellness for nearly 20 of her 30-year career in market research. At Ergotron, Carrie oversees ergonomics research and outreach, working with top researchers in the field to advance knowledge regarding how sit-stand activity has on our health and wellbeing. Carrie spent the first 15 years of her career at Ergotron managing technical publications. Her previous experience in market research and product design make her uniquely qualified to aid international organizations to interpret and adapt the latest scientific discoveries into best practices, optimizing health and performance in the workplace and classroom. In 2016, Carrie achieved both an Advanced Office Ergonomics Assessment Specialist Certification from the Back School, and a Health Coach Certification from Real Balance Global Wellness Services. Carrie has also contributed to publications including Entrepreneur, U.S. News, The Telegraph, and the Active Times. You can find Carrie on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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