Not too long ago, many people believed that exercise alone was enough to combat an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. But now there is broad agreement that an hour a day of vigorous activity cannot offset fifteen hours a day of relative inactivity.
More recently, standing desks have started trending, promising to nip the sedentary lifestyle crisis in the bud. However, even though standing does burn more calories than sitting, the difference is negligible and standing desks can often be expensive and bulky.
Neither of these approaches uniquely addressed all of the possible illnesses that accompany prolonged sitting either and the truth is, physical fitness involves much more than just weight control.
Perspectives on the proper amount of exercise continue to evolve. Scientists once believed that anything less than vigorous and intense exercise was essentially a waste of time. New research, however, has turned that view on its ear. Most data now suggests that moderate exercise has substantial benefits, and since it also carries less injury risk, those benefits may even exceed intense exercise. Some moderate exercise suggestions include:
Walking: You can’t get much more moderate or basic than walking. About thirty minutes of reasonably vigorous walking per day qualifies as moderate exercise. The thirty minutes needn’t be all at once. This also helps lose weight.
Yoga: Complex yoga poses require a great deal of flexibility and it takes months or years or practice to master such contortions. But most of the basic yoga poses essentially just require deep breathing and erect posture. Both these things, especially good posture, are essential to combating the ill health effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Tai Chi: This non-contact martial art basically combines walking movement with yoga-like stretching. The results often exceed your expectations in only a few weeks.
Exercise alone does not cure sitting-related health issues, but it’s a very good start and an extremely important component of overall physical fitness.
What To Do At Your Desk
No matter how much they try to move around, most people spend most or all of the work day at a desk looking at a screen. It’s important to be as active as possible, and it’s also important to be healthy while seated at the desk.
Sensory Input: Computer-related vision problems affect many people. If the screen is bright enough to be a light source, it’s too bright. Also, try to limit background noise. Prolonged exposure to anything more than eighty-five decibels, which is basically a chamber orchestra in a mid-size auditorium, can often lead to hearing loss.
Elbow: This joint should be at a 90-degree angle when your hands rest on your keyboard. Raise or lower your chair to get your elbows in the proper position. If your wrists need more support, consider a brace for everyday use. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a degenerative condition that can cause serious problems if left untreated.
Back: The lower back should arch slightly to prevent slouching and also reduce excess strain on these muscles.
Also, make sure that your thighs and calves fit your chair properly. If you cannot easily slide your fingers under your thigh or place a clenched fist between your calf and the back of your chair, adjust the seat or use a prop.
At work, try not to sit for more than about an hour at a time. That’s obviously not possible every day, but most people can take intermittent small breaks to get up, stretch, and walk around. Furthermore, consider standing up when you’re on the phone, holding walking meetings, and popping into a colleague’s office instead of sending an instant message.
Make some simple adjustments in your off-work hours as well. Park far away from the door, take the stairs when possible, stamp your feet while brushing your teeth, and get up off the couch during commercials.
Be mindful in these three areas and you can significantly minimize the health risks associated with sitting.