Tips to counteract a sedentary job

If you have a desk job that requires a lot of sitting and you’re concerned about the health risks now being associated with prolonged sitting, here are some things you can do that require no expense:

  • Use a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch and walk around every 30 or 60 minutes. Google “timer” to find a virtual timer you like. Aim for a few minutes of non-sitting movement every hour.
  • Find ways to walk more: Place your phone away from your desk, so you have to stand up and walk to it to make or answer calls. Use a small cup for your drinking water or beverage of choice (or fill your regular cup partway), and when it’s empty, get up to refill it. Don’t use the restroom that’s closest to your office — walk to a more distant one. Instead of emailing colleagues, walk to their offices to talk, when feasible.
  • Breathe fully and deeply, using your abdomen, moving your ribs front, sides, and back. Do 5 of these breaths, then return to normal breathing.
  • Take a yoga class on your lunch hour. Or do desk yoga (Google “rodney yee 4 minute”  to see videos of Rodney Yee doing seated sequences). You can evendo cat-cow ever so often while sitting: curl your spine forward and back a few times, exhaling when you curl forward, inhaling when you arch your back.
  • Close your door or put on your headphones, turn on your iPod or a music video, and dance!
  • Fidget and wiggle. Especially move your legs.

When you’re not at work, avoid sitting as much as you can:

  • If you drive to work and your car has no lumbar support, place two tennis balls inside a piece of pantyhose with a knot in the middle and at the ends. Put it behind your lumbar vertebrae and press into it as you drive. It will feel great — and you’ll know when you’ve had enough.
  • If you watch television in the evenings or on weekends, stand, use your treadmill, or bounce on an exercise ball while watching. If you sit, get up and move during commercials.
Sit on an exercise ball at work instead of a desk chair. It strengthens your core, improves balance, improves flexibility, burns more calories, and requires you to use your legs. You can get them for under $20. Get a 75 cm for the most height. 

All of these tips can make a difference, helping to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, and waist size; improve posture, breathing, and metabolism; and decrease back pain.

“If there’s a fountain of youth, it is probably physical activity,” says Yancey, noting that research has shown benefits to every organ system in the body.

Next: standing desks.

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