Thousands of years ago, we didn’t have buildings, cars, food delivery services or any of the modern conveniences we take for granted today. We woke up in the morning and were on our feet most of the day hunting and gathering.
There isn’t much hunting and gathering going on today—unless you consider finding deals on online. Now nearly 86% of full-time American workers spend long, sedentary hours sitting at a desk. Add in time sitting during our long commutes to and from work and watching our favorite programming, and our bodies are being affected in a number of ways.
“Sitting too long on a consistent basis has several negative consequences on health,” said Broderick Howard, DO, a sports medicine physician at Banner Health Center in Gilbert, AZ. “Some general consequences include poor posture, weakened muscles and weight gain, which can lead to other health problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, living a sedentary lifestyle leads to a number of health issues, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancers.
Our bodies are designed to be up and moving like our ancestors’ eons ago. So, if you spend 8-10 hours behind a desk, what can you do? While you might not be able to change the type of job you have, there are things you can do to avoid or prevent some health risks. Dr. Howard shared three steps you can take to improve your health and wellbeing, today.
Tip # 1: Get Moving
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 150 minutes a week of any type of exercise has long-term benefits. It can improve your overall brain health and reduce your risks of weight gain, cancer, premature death, and fall-related injuries in the elderly.
“It is recommended that people get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week,” Dr. Howard said. “It is also advised to do at least 2 days of resistance exercise weekly—including things like weight-lifting or resistance training.”
Although 150 minutes may seem daunting, it really isn’t. Divide that by 7 days and you’re looking at roughly 20-22 minutes of physical activity a day. If you take two 15-minute breaks during your workday to take a brisk walk, you can easily achieve this goal.
Here are some other ways to add quick bursts of movement throughout your day:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your car at the edge of the garage
- Hold walking meetings or brainstorming sessions
- Use a restroom further from your desk
Tip #2: Pack A Lunch
When hunger or cravings strike in the office (we see you eyeing those donuts in the lounge!), it helps to be prepared with healthy options. Create a meal plan and make easy grab-and-go items for the week. Bringing your own lunch and snacks eliminates the stress of trying to make healthy choices and could also be good for your wallet.
“People typically choose more nutritious and healthy foods when they aren’t hungry or while meal planning,” Dr. Howard said. “This can help control urges to eat less healthy food in the office and on the go.”
Tip #3: Use Technology to Your Benefit
Many mobile health apps and wearable devices are available to people today, whether it’s tracking your workouts, reminding you to stand or breathe throughout the day or tracking your food intake. Although these alone won’t make you healthy, they are useful tools in changing and creating healthy habits.
“Fitness watches and devices assist by keeping track of steps and exercise activities and can be a great motivational tool to get you moving,” Dr. Howard said. “They are helpful in setting goals as they provide objective data, and several provide reminders to move more.”
You can set daily reminders on your watch or phone to get up and move or challenge yourself or a friend/coworker to getting in a certain number of steps. This type of technology, if used correctly, can increase exercise levels and overall health outcomes.
Don’t have the budget for a smartwatch? Health apps aren’t your thing? No problem. Set recurring reminders or block 10-15 minutes in your work calendar throughout your day to stand and move around the office.
Although brisk walking is safe for most people, consult with one of our primary care physicians first to evaluate any underlying medical issues. You can also schedule an appointment with a Banner Health dietician who can work with you to develop a personalized nutritional plan. Visit BannerHealth.com to find an expert near you.