In our modern world many of us work, travel and enjoy leisure time while being sedentary. Sedentary means being relatively inactive, typically referring to activities done while sitting. So things like working at a desk, driving to the grocery store or reading a book would be considered sedentary activities. To offset our seated time many of us dedicate time to go to the gym, get out for a walk or join a team sport. These activities fall into the category of exercise.
There are many wonderful, fulfilling, productive and just plain necessary activities that are considered sedentary - a dinner with your closest friends, flying to your dream vacation destination, or participating in a meeting. Sedentary activities aren’t bad activities, but there are detriments to spending lots of time throughout the week being sedentary. We know that an accumulation of sedentary time may lead to increased weight gain, weakened muscles and even discomforts like lower back pain. Typically, our response to this imbalance of time spent sitting is to schedule in some exercise. However, there is another very important aspect to counterbalancing sedentary time - breaking it up.
Let’s imagine someone that wakes up everyday, drives to work, sits at a desk, sits for lunch, sits for a meeting, drives home and then goes for a run for 60 minutes. That run has meaningful health benefits. These benefits are well known, including increased muscle strength, the ability to perform daily tasks with ease, improved lung function and a boost to our mood. Even so, this person is missing out on the added health benefits gained from breaking up their sedentary time with motion throughout their day. This is an easily overlooked, yet highly valuable method of improving our health.
Breaking up sedentary time will look different for everyone and will vary depending on the activity you’re doing. Standing up for a 5 minute stretch break in the middle of a theatre is likely not appropriate, but stretching in your office is! There are many ways to increase movement during the day such as doing a little yoga routine at lunch, using a small water bottle that requires walking to the sink for a refill regularly, or placing your cellphone in your bedroom so that you have to walk a flight of stairs to check it. Other methods include setting a timer when you have long tasks to complete as a reminder to stand up and do a few stretches, or planning your day in such a way that you alternate between computer work and more physical tasks like gardening, carrying groceries or doing laundry.
Adding movement into your day will take conscious effort at first. Plan when and how you will address your longest periods of sedentary time first, maybe your work day or evening TV time. Practice breaking up this time regularly and gradually you’ll find you are able to incorporate this new habit into other parts of your day. Eventually, integrating movement throughout your day will become part of your healthy lifestyle.
How are you breaking up your sedentary time?
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