Being a whole-food, plant-based eater doesn’t give us a pass to sit on our duffs all day. No matter how healthy we eat, even how much time we spend at the gym, we’re still vulnerable to the effects of what some experts call sitting disease, essentially being glued to our seats for long periods of time.
Studies have illustrated the dangers of excess sitting. Take, for instance, a recent one from the International Journal of Obesity which revealed that desk jobs are bad for the heart and waistline. Excess sitting was linked with increased heart disease risk and LDL (or bad) cholesterol, reduced HDL (good) cholesterol, and larger waistlines.
This is one reason I transitioned to a height-adjustable desk several years ago and today, I spend most of my day standing (along with logging daily cardio and strength workouts). It’s not something I did overnight, though. Just like training for a marathon, I had to train my body to progress to standing for longer periods. Experts I’ve chatted with however, do warn us that too much standing can be hard on the body as well, which is why I do not advocate standing every waking minute.
The take home message?
Even if you’re a diehard fitness enthusiast, if you sit for extended periods of time, you need to take breaks from sitting. Consider trying to limit how much you do sit and try moving more frequently throughout the day. Many experts recommend standing and moving 5 to 10 minutes for every 30 to 60 minutes that you sit.
Here are some of my favorite ways to sneak movement into the day, none of which require a gym:
- Pace as you talk on the phone: If you’ve always taken phone calls sitting down, it’s time to change your altitude and walk as you talk. Even if you’re in a small space, you can still pace in small circles. Try using a headset to make walking and talking easier.
- Lengthen your walk to the mailbox: Rather than taking the shortest walking route to your mailbox, opt for a longer route or just extend your route. I always take my golden retriever with me so she gets another walk in addition to her long walk every day.
- Use a height-adjustable desk or a treadmill desk: If possible, switch your desk to a treadmill desk. Of course, you won’t be able to walk very fast, maybe about 2 miles per hour max, but you’ll rack up the steps. No room for that in your budget or office space? Then possibly consider a height-adjustable desk, because standing burns more calories than sitting. There are more affordable models appearing in the market these days. Make sure you work up gradually to standing for longer periods, and check to be sure that you’re using good ergonomics (so everything’s at the right height for your body). Avoid standing in a rigid posture, be relaxed and move frequently.
- Take a five-minute movement break every hour: climb stairs (which a recent study found can be a great cardio fitness builder, even in small bouts), do yoga or take a walk. The point is to move your body in some way for scheduled breaks. Why not try setting an alarm to remind you that it is time to move?
- Do “extra” errands at home or work: Got a car full of groceries to unload or need to run papers around the office? Rather than trying to do these tasks in as few trips as possible, stretch them out. For instance, carry grocery bags in one at a time. Granted, it’s less time-efficient, but the movement will pay off.
- Turn wait time into move time: Whenever you find yourself waiting, like at the grocery store or airport, or while filling up your car with gas, just move a little. Walk around in what space you have, or if possible, do lunges, squats or calf raises. At the very least, opt to stand during this wait time.
These are just some of the ways I’ve found to be more active. I hold myself accountable by using a fitness tracker. I challenge you to come up with your own strategies for moving more throughout the day. Let’s remember the Helen Hayes adage- “If you rest, you will rust.”
- Tigbe, W. W., M. H. Granat, N. Sattar, and M. E. Lean. “Time spent in sedentary posture is associated with waist circumference and cardiovascular risk.” International journal of obesity (2005). U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.
- Allison, M. K., J. H. Baglole, B. J. Martin, M. J. Macinnis, B. J. Gurd, and M. J. Gibala. “Brief Intense Stair Climbing Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.