Stand up and take notice by Sarah Mayo
Sit up… in fact, stand up and take notice… we’re told it’s dangerous to sit for six or more hours a day, yet everything about our lives is designed and tailored to encourage us to be sedentary for really long periods of time… whether it’s our largely desk-based jobs, driving to work, commuting on the train or bus, or simply relaxing at home in front of the television.
Take a moment now to have a think about your typical day. How much of it do you spend sitting? Be honest with yourself. It’s pretty frightening isn’t it? Especially when we see the direct correlation between sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, and different types of cancer. Unfortunately for most of us, some of the only time we don’t sit is during a formal workout, which may only account for about an hour or so of any given day.
And we all know that we’re not designed to sit still for long periods of time. Our bodies are designed to move, in many ways and in many directions. They are clever machines that we’re under-utilising. Is it any wonder we feel tense, tight, inflexible, or worse still we develop physical pain or discomfort in our lower back, neck or shoulders? And as we hear all too often, the long-term effects are not only bad for our physical health, but our mental and emotional wellbeing too. Movement is a natural antidote to life’s everyday stresses yet we’ve removed it from our days.
Now we all know sitting too much is bad for our health but what can we practically do to change this, when we can’t easily change our environment? While there are many things that we can’t control and change, what we can control and change is our own behaviour. The only way to change this is to consciously make a commitment to change — by reframing how we do things, finding ways to build more natural movement into our days — making everyday life easier and more enjoyable, as a result.
Here is a checklist of 11 things you can do to consciously build more natural movement into your working day.
- Morning exercise – if your routine and chrono-type allows (apparently only 40% of us are morning people!), get up and move first thing, preferably outside exposing your body to natural daylight, as well as mobilising the joints and muscles.
- Commute – what sitting do you currently do on the commute? If it’s on your bike, then keep up the good work! But if you drive to work or sit on a train or bus take a moment now to think about how you could swap some of the sitting for standing, or better still moving. Could you park the car somewhere further away from work and walk some of the way? Could you get off the train or bus earlier and walk the rest?
- Break every 52 minutes – when you get to work, set a timer to go off every 52 minutes to encourage you to take a break. We know from another of our blogs that 52 minutes is the time the most productive people work before taking a break, getting up and moving away from their desks.
- Stand up – at least once every hour and stretch the legs. Step away from your desk and change the scene. Go and speak to a colleague. Go fill up your water bottle. Pop outside for a breath of fresh air.
- Shoulder Rolls – unravel yourself from that hunched up position sat at your desk. Roll the shoulders backwards 10 times at least 4 times a day to help combat sitting-related tension in the shoulders. As I sit and write this, I’ve stopped to enjoy some very easy to perform shoulder rolls. I hope as you read this, you’re doing the same!
- Check your sitting posture from top to bottom – what can you do to ensure you’re sitting in the most optimum way? Ensure your screen is at eye level and arms length away. Sit upright with shoulders drawn back and imagine your spine and neck all in a neutral, stacked position. Hold your arms in an “L” shape, with wrists resting on the desk, elbows by the side of your body. Engage your core and make sure your lower back is supported by your chair. Ensure your knees are level with your hips at 90 degrees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Stretch and strengthen muscles – the hips and hip flexors, chest and shoulders and lower back will all benefit from regular stretching to lengthen out the muscles that shorten and get tight as a result of sitting in a chair. The glutes, hip extensors, upper back and abdominals all weaken as a result of sitting, so strengthening these will help to improve muscle imbalances and bad posture that develops as a result of prolonged sitting. Head to yoga, search online for one of many great free workouts, or get in touch to find out about our STRETCH+CHILL workout. It has been designed specifically to help stretch and strengthen the muscle groups that are affected by sitting for prolonged periods at our desks. If you think your workplace would benefit from this workout, get in touch.
- Lunchtime walk – head out at lunch on a walk with colleagues to download or by yourself if you need some time to reflect.
- Walking meetings – take your meetings on the move… not only will you create movement through the body, you’ll encourage movement of your creative and problem-solving juices too.
- Evening exercise – if your routine (or chrono-type!) means you prefer to workout in the evening then this can be a great way to unwind after a long day… my word of caution is to consider how late you’re exercising as if late and high intensity, you may find it difficult to fall asleep due to the build up of cortisol. Read our blog with sleep expert Risa for more on this.
- And don’t forget our 11 minute HIIT+CHILL weekly challenge published every Monday on Instagram and YouTube at 7am. Combining just 8 minutes of vigorous exercise and 3 minutes of focused breathing, this short workout will help improve your overall sense of mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Find out more here.
And to close, the act of movement and moving is a very good metaphor for life… In the words of Albert Einstein “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you need to keep moving.” Whether a bike is your chosen means of movement or something else… don’t sit still; keep moving forward, keep moving naturally.