Do you manage to get in 10,000 steps a day? That’s what experts recommend. How about 5,000? If you don’t wear a pedometer, you might be surprised at how little you move, especially at work.
Wait a minute. You have a desk job, you say. You have to sit all day to get your work done.
Or do you?
More and more people are breaking free of their desks during their work days -- at least some of the time. Turns out, it’s a good thing for everyone.
According to a Swedish study, employees who were allowed to use work time to exercise 2.5 hours a week were more productive and happier about their work, and less likely to take sick days. That makes sense -- exercise gets your blood flowing, improves memory and focus, calms stress, and is great at chasing away the blues.
How much is enough? Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, like walking, or 75 minutes of something more intense, like running. Throw in some muscle-strengthening moves a couple of times a week and you’re set.
Experts now say that lots of sitting is bad for you even if you exercise regularly. In other words, running or hitting the gym a couple of times a week is certainly good for you, but it doesn’t cancel out all the hours and hours of sitting.
The problem is, sitting down causes muscles to go into “standby” mode. Some types of metabolism slow down up to 95 percent, causing glucose and unhealthy lipids (fats) to pile up in the bloodstream. And those effects show up fast -- within hours. Taking a stroll after a meal turns out to be more than a delightful European tradition -- it may explain why they stay slim despite all that wine and cheese.
The key is to move -- at least a little -- all day long.
The good news is you don’t need to choose between your work and your health. A recent study from New Zealand showed that walking for just 100 seconds every 30 minutes is an excellent way to lower blood sugar and insulin levels after meals -- even better than walking for 30 minutes at a stretch. This is good because higher blood sugar levels may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and weight gain).
Ready to get on your feet? Here are some ideas for making it happen:
- Take a 100-second walking and stretching break every 20 to 30 minutes. Your eyes, neck, and shoulders will thank you. (Try an app like Move or Stand Up! to remind you to take breaks.)
- Take a look at your commute -- can you park a block or two further away, or get off the train or bus a stop early? That creates a little walk twice a day.
- Choose the stairs whenever it’s practical, like coming up from the subway, or in your office building or garage. Climbing stairs is more intense exercise than walking.
- Move at lunchtime. You don’t need to fit in a full workout -- even a 10-minute walk gets your muscles moving and clears your head.
- If you need to ask a coworker a quick question, walk over and talk instead of sending another e-mail. It might even be more efficient.
- Take your one-on-one or small team meetings to the street. If you don’t need to look at a screen or board, you don’t really need to stay indoors.
- If you use a mobile phone at work, walk during call-in meetings. Even cordless phones have enough range for you to pace around your office or home.
- Standing desks are becoming more popular -- ask about one if you are interested. Standing keeps your major muscles more active than sitting does.
Try some of these tips and pretty soon, you might be hitting those 10,000 steps a day without even thinking about it. Even better, you should feel more energetic, productive and happy. Now that's a win-win.