In recent years, several studies suggest that sitting for long periods can adversely affect our health. However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), regular physical activity can improve brain health, weight management, reduce disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do daily activities. We can even do some physical activities at work to help improve our health.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle may cause increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity. Long-term sitting or a sedentary lifestyle have also been associated with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Other studies show sitting too long may cause weakened large leg and gluteal muscles and problems with your hips and back. Finally, some studies suggest that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
According to the 2018 Activities Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, adults ages 18 to 64 need to do aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities each week to improve physical and mental health. The guidelines recommend that people do:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking) and two or more days of strength training; or
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (running, jogging, or similar) and two or more days of strength training.
Strength training should target all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
The good news is that we can do some exercise at work during short activity breaks. Below are some ideas:
- Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes;
- Stand while talking on the phone;
- If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter;
- Try some five-minute YouTube videos for stretches, Tai Chi, or yoga you can do at your desk;
- Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room;
- Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day;
- Standing rather than sitting on public transport;
- Walking to work if possible;
- Taking walks during lunch breaks; and
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
To learn more about being more physically active while working, check out the CDC’s Physical Activity Breaks for the Workplace Resource Guide.