person jumping in a puddle

Standing and moving

It is well known now that sitting is the new smoking when it comes to bad lifestyle habits. It is a silent killer that is wreaking havoc and putting people at high risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, postural problems and early death. We have created a world where we can be “mobile” and connected everywhere, yet we somehow created workplaces that keep us sitting at a desk for hours on end working at a computer. We also created homes that have all the conveniences to make our lives “easier” yet we use this time to sit on our butts and stay connected with the world.

Getting moving requires a conscious decision and a fair bit of planning, but once you get into the habit, it becomes the new way of life. It is often thought that you can counteract the effects of sitting all day by going for a morning walk or run. We are now learning that this is not the case. Prolonged sitting seems to cause adverse health effects even if you are meeting the guidelines of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. When you really think about it, it makes sense. Our bodies basically rely on movement for function. And if we do a whole heap of movement and then sit for 8 hours, our bodies stagnate. They get stiff. Signalling to cells diminish, blood flow slows down, metabolism gets down regulated. Lymphatic drainage slows down. So in other words you have less oxygenation and increased cellular waste… think fatigue, brain fog, stiffness, lack of concentration. Not very good for work productivity let alone health!

So getting up and moving frequently is one of the easiest lifestyle habits that people can adopt to lower their risk of lifestyle disease. Guidelines for desk based workers published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015 suggest that workers should be aiming for 4 hours of standing and light movement in an 8 hour shift. That means we really do need to make a conscious effort to get up and get moving. Here are some practical tips for including movement in the work and home environment.

Practical tips for getting moving at work and home:

  1. Stand up when you’re on the phone – every time you take a phone call either at home or work, stand up to talk. And, if you can, walk around. Most of us now use these amazing things called mobile phones, but, somehow they have made us more immobile. Even if you still need to look at data on your computer, try standing for parts of the phone call.
  2. Walking meetings – if you are having a meeting with a small group of 2 – 4 people, try going for a walk around the block. It will take a little bit of forward planning to be prepared, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is and how even taking just 10 minutes of your meeting for a walk allows a different clarity of mind.
  3. Do some squats – set yourself a goal of maybe 50 squats a day. Do them in the kitchen, in the bathroom, by your desk. All you have to do is 5 at a time, 10 times a day and they’re done!
  4. Wait standing up – when you can, do all your waiting standing up. Wait for the kettle to boil standing up, wait for you coffee to be made at the cafe while standing…….or even better still, go for a walk up the street. Wait for your kids at pick up standing outside the car. Wait for your next meeting standing up. Think of all the things you do that require waiting, and instead of sitting down and scrolling through your phone, stand up and walk around.
  5. Ad breaks – if you’re a tv watcher, then take every ad break as your cue to do a lap of the lounge room or a lap of the house. If you are a netflixer then set yourself a reminder in your phone to get up every 20 mins and do a lap. Amazing how long you can sit and stare at a show without moving!
  6. Lunch break – firstly, you need to take it. Secondly, get moving! Walk somewhere. If you can, get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. So many of us spend most of our working hours sitting and then we take a lunch “break” and sit down for the whole time.
  7. Rolls – get things rolling. Shoulder rolls, neck rolls, ankle rolls, wrist rolls. You can do a lot of movement even when your sitting by just moving your joints and limbs around.
  8. Talk don’t email/phone or text – if you need to get a message to a co-worker, then walk to them and talk to them in person. Make this your habit instead of sending an email or text to a person in the same building.
  9. Laptop off your lap – if you use a laptop computer, put it up on the kitchen bench, or a work surface that is higher so you can stand rather than sit while using it. Be creative in finding different “workstations” that you can work from.

You can access the ‘Get Up & Get Moving’ PDF for practical tips to move more at work and home here.

Jacqueline Edser is a qualified Occupational Therapist, Certified Lifestyle Medicine practitioner and offers Lifestyle Medicine Coaching.

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