September 12, 2016
New studies are emerging almost weekly, telling us about the negative impact that ‘office life’ is having on our bodies. One of the latest pieces of research has broken down the economic costs of the lack of physical activity in our society. Estimates have shown that the health impacts of physical inactivity – a completely preventable cost – were $53.8 billion worldwide in 2013 and $805 million in Australia. You may also be thinking that this is a bill picked up by the Government, but $9.7 billion of this is covered by households – i.e. YOU.
Lead author of this study from the University of Sydney, Dr Melody Ding, said in a statement “Physical inactivity is recognised as a global pandemic that not only leads to diseases and early deaths, but imposes a major burden to the economy”.
Think about your own day for a moment, and what that looks like. Do you spend most of the day sitting in an office chair, largely inactive apart from your sporadic visits to grab food and go to the bathroom? One study’s media grabbing headline told us that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and the research that is emerging may prove that they weren’t far off.
But is it all doom and gloom, or is there something that we can do about it? It has been hotly debated as to whether the ‘hour of power’ of exercise (i.e. before or after work) can really rectify the ill effects of sitting throughout the day. Whether it does or not is irrelevant here, as we advocate an hour of exercise no matter what you do already for its countless health benefits. The question today: how do we integrate movement throughout the day to offset these negative impacts of sitting?
So below are the top ways to integrate movement throughout your work day and decrease the effects on your body from being so sedentary:
#1 Turn your meetings into a walk: This one comes from the great wellness advocate Arianna Huffington, who has converted as many of her daily meetings into a walk. Instead of going for a 30 minute coffee catchup, turn it into a walk as she can. This goes for phone calls as well. Our mobiles allow us to be just that – mobile. So as soon as you hear the phone ring treat it like a signal to get moving. Huffington says “When the body is still the mind wanders. So if we move the body, the mind will focus.”. That’s what I’m looking for out of my meetings!
#2 Set an alarm: Ever get to 11am and wonder where the morning has gone? Hours can often fly by without us moving a muscle. Every 60 minutes have an alarm set to remind you to get up – get a glass of water, get a coffee, go to the bathroom, walk a lap of the office, some form of movement. Soon you won’t need the alarm, and your body will become conditioned to craving the movement (it’s definitely craving the sitting now!). Train your body to crave movement and the rest will come naturally.
#3 Stop sending emails: This one is multifaceted in it’s benefits. Not only have we become so isolated socially by technology, but it’s also making us pack on the pounds. Anytime you need to speak to someone in your office and are tempted to click ‘new email’, try walking to their desk instead for some movement, but also some social interaction. How is your boss meant to know how great you’re doing if you’re not around or just sending emails? How are colleagues meant to know what you do, to later help you in a promotion, if they haven’t spoken to you all year (besides your one line emails)? Oh and the line “hope you’re well” in an email has now been shown to do more damage than good anyway – so get up and get talking.
#4 Use your lunch break: It’s called a ‘break’ for a reason. It astounds me how few people actually take a lunch break, and even more concerning when I learn how people are actually using it. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 minutes, half an hour or the full 60 minutes, getting moving in that time is going to make a considerable difference to the rest of your day. Not only will utilising this time for a walk/jog/run, gym class, stretching program, or any form of movement decrease the impacts of sitting, but it also acts as a ‘refresh’ button for the mind to start the afternoon like it’s the morning. Ever find yourself hitting 3pm and wishing you had a snooze button for an afternoon nap? Moving in your lunch break is a great way to remedy this, and that 3pm lull is another great excuse to get moving!
#5 Utilise a standing desk: Do I stand? Do I sit? Aren’t they both bad for me anyway? Technically yes. Research is showing that too much of one thing is bad for you (we already knew this though!). So mix it up. Stand for 30 minutes and sit for 30 minutes. Stand for 1 hour and sit for 1 hour. It doesn’t matter the length of time just make sure you mix it up. Companies are pretty switched on these days to ergonomics and the headache that any work comp will cause them, so hit them up for a standing desk. While there are some on the market that are incredible (think a transformer as a desk), there are also much cheaper (and just as good) options like Kogan’s $49 raiser which with a few stacks of paper and books can turn your whole desk into a standing one.
Our sedentary nature is killing us, but there are changes we can make that will offset this. Small changes can have a big impact, and there are now five ways in which you can get your body moving. I’m sure your desk chair loves you, but you need to tell it you’re taking a “break”.