(Originally published in Abbott's Life to the Fullest)
Wondering how to live a healthier life? Spending more time sitting than you'd like? You're not alone. According to a science advisory from the American Heart Association, the average adult spends six to eight hours sitting each day.
The AHA's advice on how to live a healthy life: "sit less and move more." Your first move is to see your doctor to be sure your healthy enough to get started. The next would be to check these moves you can do at your desk.
The Dangers of Sitting
Even if you hit the gym after work, growing evidence suggests that exercise alone can't counter the unhealthy effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Numerous studies, including the AHA's, conclude that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of disease, including heart disease and diabetes. While it's important to fit in regular exercise, it's also crucial to break up those regular sit-a-thons.
How to Stay Healthy
Exercises that you can do at your desk help make the most of your screen time. Break up your day with these stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises to keep you healthier overall, without inviting too many strange looks from your coworkers.
To ease stress, prevent muscle tightness and improve your posture, give these stretches a go.
- Shoulder blade squeezes: Sitting up straight in chair, squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat.
- Reaches: Sit tall in your chair and stretch both arms overhead, reaching for the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds, then extend the right hand a bit higher. Alternate to the left hand.
- Neck stretch: Sit up straight and relaxed. Roll your head to the right so that your ear nearly touches your right shoulder. Use your right hand to gently press a little lower. Hold for 10 seconds. Release, relax and repeat on the left side.
- Torso twist: Sit facing forward, then slowly twist your torso to look right, resting your right hand or arm on the chair back while your left hand rests on your right thigh. Turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat to the left.
Get stronger by doing these moves, if your workspace can accommodate.
- Desk pushups: Stand facing your desk, then place your hands on the desk, shoulder width apart. Walk your feet back several steps so you're in a plank. Lower yourself down, then push back up. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Desk dips: Facing away from your desk, place your hands shoulder width apart with your legs extended. Bend your arms to lower your body toward the floor, just enough to work the back of your arms without straining the elbows or shoulders. Straighten arms and repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Leg raise: While sitting, lift one leg off the seat and straighten. Hold for several seconds, then lower your foot almost to the floor and hold for several seconds. Switch legs. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Chair squats: If your chair is on rollers, be sure they're locked and steady before starting. Stand about six inches in front of your chair and lower yourself until your bottom hits the edge, then raise back up. Repeat 15 to 20 times.
- Calf raises: Resting your hands on your chair back for balance, stand behind your chair with your feet together. Rise up onto your toes and hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 15 to 20 times.
Short Intervals of Intense Exercise
Recent research suggests that taking a 10-minute break to do short intervals of intense physical activity can promote health and overall fitness. Spare a few minutes of your workday to get your heart rate pumping with these exercises.
- Jumping jacks: Perform a minute of jumping jacks. For a lower-impact version, step your feet side to side one at a time as you raise your arms. Rest for one minute and repeat up to five times.
- Run in place: Do 60 seconds of running in place. Low impact alternative: March in place. Rest for one minute and repeat up to five times.
- Take the stairs: Use your 10-minute break to run (or briskly walk) up an office stairwell one or two steps at a time. Then, walk back down at a slower pace.
So when you're wondering how to life a healthy life, set a regular reminder to get up and take a walking lap around the office.