Isn’t it Ironic? With all the modern day technology and conveniences available to us today, designed to make our lives better, we’re getting heavier and sicker. It seems what we’re saving in time we’re paying for with our health in the form of excess weight and the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some forms of cancer. It’s hasn’t been the best tradeoff.
I have days where I’m sitting at my computer for many hours and I begin to feel sluggish and grouchy. It’s not surprising since too much sitting can lead to muscle atrophy, a sore back, slow circulation and less oxygen to the brain, and a depressed immune system. My body actually craves movement on those days and I will even work standing up. My dad keeps saying that we should go back to the horse and buggy. While I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon for so many reasons, in some ways, it’s exactly what we need to do.
Not that I would want to turn back time to those days, but I do believe that slowing down as well as getting back to using our bodies more vigorously on a regular basis are two practices that would greatly enhance our overall health. Because this is probably the most exciting time to be alive in history, imagine how much better conditions would be if everyone were healthy and vibrant. Today, more than ever, we really do know how to make that happen. However, it’s not about a magic bullet that will instantly fix everything. Like anything else worth having, it takes work.
You may be thinking, I can’t get to the gym and I don’t have time for a workout. So how can you incorporate more movement and muscle work into a somewhat sedentary day? Here are some ideas:
Park further away from the building - We often rush to find great parking spots, but think of parking further away from the office of grocery store as an opportunity to get some exercise. In fact, I’m always thankful that I can walk the distance so I welcome the walk and make it deliberate by standing tall and moving with energy in my step. This is a good opportunity to focus on breathing deep as well.
Take the stairs - I was at a hotel not too long ago where several hundred of us were using the elevators at the same time throughout the day. On top of it, they were slow, so a few times, I climbed the 21 flights of stairs to my room. Not only did I save time, I felt great when I got to the top. Maybe 21 flights is extreme for some people, but even one or two flights will give the legs a workout. Here’s a tool for finding out how many calories you can burn climbing stairs based on your weight, height, and age.
Chop and grate veggies by hand - One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to chop vegetables. Maybe that sounds strange, but it’s actually fun for me. And hand grating vegetables like beets, carrots, jicama, and zucchini for recipes is a quick but effective workout for the arms and shoulders. Balance your workout by switching hands halfway through your veggies.
Get up from your desk every hour - If you’re working a desk job, you’ve probably experienced fatigue and brain fog that can come from sitting all day. At least once per hour, stand up and go for a quick walk for some water or to use the rest room. So some simple stretching and do some shoulder rolls to reset your posture and increase the flow of blood to the brain. If you can, work standing up for some time too. When I do, I'll even work my lower legs by alternating between standing on my toes then leaning on my heals and lifting my toes off the ground. This is also a good time to give your quadriceps a stretch by bending one leg at a time at the knee and grabbing your foot from behind.
Work your muscles while watching television - If you’re in the habit of sitting in front of the TV at night, why not combine it witha workout? Because we lose muscle mass as we get older, it’s important to incorporate resistance work into our days to maintain it. Keeping a high percentage of muscle also allows you to burn more calories at rest and it encourages fat loss. Pick up some hand weights and do bicep curls and shoulder presses while sitting in a stable upright position, or stand and work your legs with lunges and squats. The added weight will increase the resistance. Here are some tips on how to choose and use weights properly to avoid injury.
If you’re in the habit of sitting long hours, consider any opportunity to get up and move as a chance to work your body. Come up with you own methods for moving and working your muscles even if you can't carve out time to hit the gym. The more you do, the better you’ll feel.
Image courtesy of digitalart