Exercising for 30 minutes each day has become a widely accepted marker of good health. But new studies show that daily gym visits might not be enough. While regular exercise can help fight many chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more, the prolonged effects of a sedentary lifestyle do more damage than any amount of exercise can undo.
The Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Like more and more adults, you probably work at a desk all day or spend periods lounging on the couch, looking at screens, etc., each day. But prolonged sitting has been shown to create physiological changes within your muscles and increase your likelihood of cardiovascular problems.
According to New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds, sitting for long bouts can vastly change your body over time, leading to effects such as:
- Accumulations of fat in your liver, heart and brain
- Increased sleepiness
- Weight gain
However, there is good news for office goers. Breaking your sedentary streak during the day is associated with improved waist circumference, body mass index, triglyceride levels and 2-hour glucose levels — regardless of how many total hours you’ve sat or worked out.
Reynolds recommends standing up for just 2 minutes every 20 minutes, which will greatly reduce the risk factors. You can set a reminder or dedicate phone calls to standing. Beyond standing more often throughout the day, here are some other stealthy ways to stay active at work and fight the effects of a sedentary lifestyle:
1. Glute Squeezes
Think you can’t work on lifting your booty at the office? Think again. Simply squeezing your buttocks repeatedly for 5-10 seconds can give your backside a welcomed lift.
2. Sitting Leg Raises
Leg raises are another way to get an extra burn in unbeknownst to your boss or co-workers.
While seated, straighten one or both legs and hold for at least five seconds. Then lower your legs without letting your feet touch the floor, and repeat 15 times. For an extra challenge, balance a book or stack of papers on top of your feet while raising and lowering your legs.
3. Calf Raises
When taking frequent standing breaks, rev up the caloric burn with some standing calf raises. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, press up onto your toes, pause at the top, then lower back down. Repeat for three sets of 12-15 reps.
4. Arm Pulses
While this exercise may draw slightly more attention than others, just a few minutes of arm pulses will have every muscle in your arms firing.
While sitting at your desk, raise your arms straight out with the tops of your hands facing toward your body. Move your arms forward and backward (about four inches) quickly, and continue for 30 seconds. Angle the palms of your hand toward your body, and pulse for another 30 seconds. Repeat the move with your hands pointed toward the floor and the ceiling for 30 seconds each. Do this a couple times throughout the day, and you’ll be tank-top ready in no time.
5. Chair Dips
Sitting upright in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, lift your arms up using the base of your chair or arm rest, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat at least 3 times. For a better burn, see how long you can hold yourself up, and try to beat your record each week!
6. Good Posture
Practicing good posture engages your core and back. However, it’s easy to slump into bad posture habits. If you’re looking for an effective posture coach, Lumo Lift is a small wearable that alerts you when you slouch with a slight vibration. It also tracks your steps so you can keep another pulse on your daily activity.
7. Shoulder Blade Pinch
Take your awesome posture a step further with shoulder blade pinches that engage your upper back muscles and reinforce good posture. Roll back your shoulders until they’re pinched together, and hold for 5-10 seconds.
Don’t let your career ambitions get in the way of your fitness goals. Taking a few extra measures to engage your muscles throughout the day can set you up for a longer, healthier life.
What other tips do you have for sneaking in exercise at work? We’d love to hear them in the comments section!