Take a Stand to Start the New Year
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Happy New Year! The holiday season is over and it’s time to tackle 2014. In December, I wrote about how to make New Year’s resolutions you can keep. It’s the second week of January – how are you doing so far?
Resolutions to take the dog on more walks, cook meals at home and focus on a healthier lifestyle are often abandoned as we return to business as usual. For a lot of us, that means heading back into the office, working in front of a computer screen for at least eight hours a day. If one of your resolutions was to get healthier, let me provide a concrete activity to make that a reality: stop sitting.
Human beings spent the majority of our history moving. We were hunting and gathering, farming, chasing children, starting fires, carrying water and shouldering burdens for millennia. We are a species that is meant to move.
When we’re seated, the major muscles in our legs and back are at rest, and our metabolisms follow suit. The electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your body only burns about one calorie per minute, a third of what you’d be burning if you were walking. The longer you remain seated, the more widespread the toll on your body. After two weeks of sitting for more than six hours a day, muscles start to atrophy and your maximum oxygen consumption drops. Sitting for extended periods of time every day has been linked to weight gain, heart disease, bone loss, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Have you been sitting continuously today? As I sit at my computer writing this article, checking email, and occasionally getting off task to read an article or two, I keep my eye on the clock. Take a look at the clock and think about the last time you stood to stretch, grab a cup of coffee, or do a lap around the house or office. If it’s been an hour, stop reading and spend a few minutes walking around. If you’re stuck in an office, do a few lunges!
Breaking up your time spent sitting, even for just a few minutes every hour, may ameliorate the negative effects of sitting. In addition to hourly breaks, remember
that everyone should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Tips for Reducing Time Spent Sitting and Sedentary
• Cut down on non-essential screen time.
It is all too easy to let a ten-minute break with a tablet turn into the evening’s activity. Try to use your devices only when you need them and avoid distracting sites, apps and games. Conversely, if you’re itching to read a series of entertaining articles, incorporate physical movement. Limit screen time to when you’re on the treadmill or doing the dishes.
• Go on walks.
A family dinner followed by a half hour or more of sitting at the table talking is very pleasant, but you can enjoy their company while taking a walk around the neighborhood. Plan activities that are just that – active. Planning to catch up with friends over coffee? Pick a coffee shop that’s close to a park and take your coffee to go.
• Set a reminder on your phone.
When we’re in the thick of a project, we don’t remember to check the clock. Set an hourly reminder and when it goes off, find a stopping point and take a break. You probably needed one anyway!
• Unplug the TV.
If your daily ritual is to come home from work and decompress with a hour or more of television, take a break from taking a break – unplug your T.V. Spend 10 or 20 minutes with a book, then cook a meal from scratch with your spouse, roommate or on your own. Start a garden or make a simple plan to landscape your yard. Take a magazine to the park and walk until you find a good tree to read under.
And here’s an idea that will really keep you from sitting too long: check out elevating your desktop or laptop so you can work standing up.
Standing and even “walking” desks are becoming more and more common, as standing up while working makes it easy to shift weight from one leg to the other, walk in place, or do lunges several times a day.
As 2014 unfolds, if people stick to their respective commitments to move more, perhaps you’ll see co-workers standing up at work in your office, or maybe you’ll become the first in your company to take a stand to move more while you’re working.