Why You're More Sedentary Than You Realize
Madison, Wisconsin – In the 1920s, advertisements for washing machines and even vacuum cleaners often promised to make doing chores so easy, there would be significantly more time for leisure activities.
Flash forward more than 90 years and even though we still have to sort the laundry and add it to the machine, there's not much we still have to do manually. And while we're certainly not going to argue about the benefits of technology, there is a downside – we've become quite good at being sedentary.
We've become so good in fact, that the 30 minutes, five days a week of exercise strongly recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and nearly every primary care physician out there may no longer be enough.
"We think we've got ourselves covered because we exercise regularly, but really, that may no longer be enough," comments Jackie Kuta Bangsberg, UW Health Fitness Center manager. "But, it's not necessarily about exercising more. It's about finding ways of bringing activity back into our day."
She admits that researchers are only now beginning to explore the limits and definitions of sendentary-ness – how much sitting is acceptable and how much light activity we actually need. But in general Kuta Bangsberg recommends taking a look at your day to figure out just how sedentary your are – how much time you are in the car, in front of the computer or in meetings, or watching television. You may be surprised to discover how much you actually sit.
"We spend a lot of time in front of screens," she comments. "And it is easy to become disconnected from our bodies. Our bodies are great at sending signals that you've been sitting too long, that it's time to take a break, but we often ignore them and get absorbed by the screen – whether that's the computer, phone, tablet or television."
Once you see what your days look like, you can begin to strategize for ways to bring activity into your day.
"It's a simple strategy - Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More, Move Often," Kuta Bangsberg explains.
In the Workplace
While many believe that a good employee works long hours and doesn't even take a lunch break, the reality is, clear, productive and creative thinking comes from taking breaks and actually having fun. That seems to run counter to many workpace cultures, which may view even getting up to go the printer as "inefficient" but it really is crucial to our mental and physical well being.
Kuta Bangsberg offers a few ways to bring activity into your work day including:
- Break up sitting periods – standing and taking a break from the computer every 30 minutes; taking standing breaks in sitting time during long meetings
- Standing during phone calls
- Walking to a colleague's desk instead of phoning or emailing
- Using a headset or speaker phone during teleconferences to enable more standing
- Sit-stand devices (workstation design that allow employees to change from standing to seated positions).
- Walking meetings – take a walk while you meet
Throughout Your Day
As a result of our lifestyles, our daily habits have changed. We no longer even have to get up to answer the phone since it can go anywhere we are. The challenge becomes figuring out ways to add activity throughout the day. Put that phone on the other side of the room. And, consider these additional suggestions from Kuta Bangsberg:
- Get a pedometer, FitBit or other tracking device and start tracking your steps
- Replace Sunday drives with Sunday walks/hikes
- When watching TV, stand up and move with every commercial break
- Walk up and down escalators instead of standing on them – better yet, find the stairs
- Bike or walk to do your errands
- Pace the sidelines of your kids athletic games
- Walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store before you actually shop
- Pick up a new active hobby – biking or hiking or learn to swim
- Read a chapter – get up and stretch
- Try standing and moving whenever you are on your phone
- Play with your kids or pets 15-30 minutes a day
- Dance to your favorite music – who cares what you look like
Kuta Bangsberg adds, "The small things really do add up. It may not seem like a lot to stand up and walk across the room to answer the phone, but it really does make a difference."
Date Published: 08/21/2014