We’ve all heard that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, with consequences including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But breaking free from a sedentary lifestyle is easier than you think.
Start with small goals and gradually build up your fitness routine. Incorporate movement into your daily routine with these easy tips:
1. Get up and walk.
Getting enough physical activity helps prevent cardiovascular disease, obesity and premature death. While intentional exercise is important, changing everyday habits to increase incidental exercise can also improve overall health and decrease sedentary time.
Start with small changes and work your way up. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking during phone calls or lunch breaks are simple ways to fit more movement into your day.
While reducing prolonged sitting is essential, it’s just as important to regularly break up that time with bouts of any intensity of physical activity. Aim to reduce prolonged sitting to 60 minutes at a time and move more frequently throughout the day. Walking briskly thrice a week is one of the most effective ways to get moving.
2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Taking the stairs can make a huge difference in your daily routine. It’s a simple, effective way to get some movement in throughout the day and burn more calories than you would by taking the elevator.
Sedentary habits can have major health consequences. Studies have shown that people who spend most of their time sitting face an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and early death.
To cut back on the amount of time you spend sitting, set alarms or reminders in your phone to prompt you to move around every hour or so. These exercise “snacks,” such as walking around the office or doing some stretches, will help break up prolonged periods of inactivity and get your blood flowing. These movements will also help you achieve your weekly activity goals recommended by the World Health Organization.
3. Go for a brisk walk around the block.
Even if you regularly exercise, sitting for long periods of time can have negative effects on your health. Persistent sedentary habits can lead to muscle atrophy, joint pain and a decline in basic physical abilities.
Walking briskly for 30 minutes each day can help combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. According to two 2022 studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology, brisk walkers have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia and death compared to their slower-moving peers.
Make your walks a daily routine by going for one after work or school, taking the stairs when you can and parking farther away from stores. You can also swim thrice a week to engage your entire body, or try playing games that require you to move like racquetball and basketball.
4. Change your office chair.
Our bodies were not designed to be stationary for long periods of time. Historically, if you were not moving about you would starve or get eaten by something (well, maybe not the latter). Nowadays, we aren’t going to die, but sitting too much can slow our metabolisms and even alter our sleep cycles.
Rather than being glued to your chair all day, try adding movement in small ways: Stand to answer the phone or text, go for a walk during your coffee or lunch break, and take a walking meeting when possible. Even when you get home, march in place or do calisthenics while watching TV, or pause the show to do a few sit-ups or arm exercises. You may be surprised at how quickly you can turn around a sedentary lifestyle.
5. Do a few push-ups.
The fitness world is constantly evolving, with new diets, workouts and wellness trends grabbing the spotlight. But one exercise has stood the test of time, and it’s a great way to get your heart pumping without leaving the comfort of your home.
In addition to burning off extra calories, physical activity promotes blood flow and metabolism. Without these vital functions, your body can’t break down carbohydrates or burn fat. This can lead to weight gain and a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.
The good news is that breaking free from a sedentary lifestyle is possible for working professionals, even if their work schedule requires them to be in front of a screen for long periods of time. The key is consistency and setting attainable goals that will help you stick with your routine.