Recently I read an article informing that many schools across the United States are introducing an extra recess for the kids. The teachers were skeptical in the beginning and worried that they may not be able to cover everything that they needed to cover in a day. As it turned out, they were wrong. In addition, the kids’ attention span and creativity improved as a result of the extra break.
Adults function the same way. We all need a break from sitting. And often.
How much do you know about sitting and its effect on your health? Chances are not much because the science is only now beginning to tell us that we need to be standing or walking every 30 minutes for 30 minutes, unless of course we’re sleeping.
Chances are also that you are sitting down while reading this article. I’m not blaming you. Most people lead sedentary lifestyles. They sit while eating, sit while driving or in transit, sit at work, and sit while watching TV.
I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that our 24 hours is comprised of 50% sitting, 30% sleeping and 20% walking and standing or being active. My estimate may be even optimistic by scientific standards.
The fact is that sitting for a prolonged period of time is detrimental to our health. Studies even show that working out regularly doesn’t do much for our overall health if we spend the whole day sitting at work (or at home).
With prolonged sitting we run the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, all of which can be prevented by periodic time-outs. So what does it take to get moving?
Alarms! Sticky notes! Calendar reminders! And of course, a little determination.
If you spend most of your time at work sitting, you absolutely MUST do the following:
- Check if you can get a standing workstation
- Create an alarm on your computer or phone to run every hour
- Leave your desk for every break and lunch time
- Do the stretching exercises (see below) when the alarm goes off
The Stretching Exercises
Stretching helps the muscles be strong, flexible, and healthy. And we need the muscles to move. Stretching also improves blood circulation so that it is evenly spread throughout the body. Not only does stretching help with losing calories, it also helps the vital organs well.. stay vital.
While there are many stretching exercises out there, I wanted to highlight some desk exercises that will be beneficial to your health in the long term. Just trust me on this one.
Download or print the picture below so you have it handy at all times. If you don’t want to look like the weird guy or girl doing stretching at your desk every hour or so, head to the washroom instead and do it there. Remember, your health is your #1 priority!
If you’re at home, you can do the following exercises in addition to the above.
… and let’s not forget this one!
Beside stretching our bodies it is important to let our minds rest. The hourly alarm can also serve as a reminder for this. Glance away from the monitor for a minute or two. Focus on something far away then on something close by and repeat this a few times. This short exercise will do wonders for your vision in the long run.
To give the mind a rest, have some brain games handy. You can print word searches and sudoku games for this.
Most importantly, remember to breathe! Take 5-7 deep breaths every hour to clear the mind, raise awareness, and be ready to take on the next task.
I will leave you with the one book that can help you learn more about healthy posture, emotional components of posture, as well as provide self-help exercises and ergonomic information for specific ailments.
That book is The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand, and Move in the Modern World.
Do you have any awesome tips or tricks to share for how to be more comfortable while sitting for prolonged periods? And how to keep healthy while doing so? Or suggest other great books to read?
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