This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column.
Have you heard the slogan “Sitting is the New Smoking”? Research suggests that a few bouts of exercise a week will not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle, and that moving regularly throughout the day is more beneficial for your overall health than an occasional workout.
Before you give up your gym membership or, conversely, book a daily spin class, let me explain: All you need to do is move! Regular exerciser or not, moving throughout your day is essential for your health.
Many of us spend our days at a desk and our evenings on a sofa, interrupted primarily by commuting and meals. But it’s so easy to get more movement into your normal routine. Here are suggestions to get started.
Walking: Obviously! It doesn’t have to be long or strenuous: this isn’t about calories burned or number of steps taken. The idea is simply to get moving. But don’t tune out and “get it done,” particularly if you can walk outside. Take in what’s going on around you. Breathe deeply. Slow down. Enjoy. Don’t miss your walk because your mind is still at work. Give your brain a break while you move your body.
Got a dog? What a great excuse! It’s my favorite daily re-set, and since I can’t shirk my responsibilities to my dog, I always get my walks in. It keeps me from being lazy or hyper-focused.
Bonus: walk somewhere there are natural sounds like water, birds, or even wind, to improve cognitive performance when you return to work. If that isn’t possible, listen to recordings of nature sounds. In fact, listening while you work enhances both mood and productivity more than regular office noise, classical music or white noise.
Can’t leave your desk or office? You can still move. Try one of these simple movements for just seconds each hour:
• Torso Twist: plant your feet, knees slightly bent, and let your arms and upper body swing from left to right and back again. Great for loosening your upper back and shoulders. Try 4 to 6 swings in both directions to start.
• Arm Swings: Alternate swinging one arm up to your head while the other swings down and back. Bonus: helps flush your lymphatics.
• Feeling Ambitious? Try 30-60 seconds minute of burpees, jumping jacks or other intense exercise. One minute of intensity training will give you a slight boost of Human Growth Hormone and GABA, which improve your energy and help you stay calm and focused longer. And it probably isn’t enough to make you sweat so you can do it during your work day.
• For the Minimalist: Change your focal length! Eyes have muscles, too, and when we stare at a fixed short distance for a long time, whether screen, desk, or papers, those muscles get tired, as will your neck and shoulders.Turn your head up and to each side, and shrug your shoulders. Look out at a distance, ideally at something natural. No view? Get yourself an indoor plant to rest and restore your eyes, or hang a photo or print that takes you out of work mode and lifts your spirits, all while changing the distance of your focus.
Integrating one of more of these into your day will help your overall health and vitality, and you may find you have more energy at the end of the day. I’d love to hear how they work for you! Drop me a line and let me know.