We have always known that a sedentary lifestyle has a negative impact on our health. But I recently read an article in the WSJ which described how sitting for more than three hours a day can decrease a person’s life expectancy by two years. The article went on to describe that this decrease in life expectancy also applies to people who are physically active and follow a healthy lifestyle.
What do you do if you have a sedentary job where you are required to sit at a desk all day long? In the article, the author stated that when we are sitting, our leg muscles are completely inactive. That wasn’t a big surprise; to me it seemed like an obvious statement. He recommended that people stand as often as possible during the day. However, I have a few additional ideas to activate those muscles and keep you healthy.
1). Fidget. You know, that thing that we all used to do when we were kids until the adults told us to sit still. Don’t sit still. Instead, move around in your seat, change positions, tap your feet, and swing your legs. While you are sitting, you can exercise your legs by doing ankle pumps, leg extensions, leg lifts and isometric exercises. Believe it or not, fidgeting also boosts your metabolism and helps burn calories.
2). Pace. Pacing is a close relative of fidgeting, kind of like a mature older cousin. Pacing is a great way to work your leg muscles, get your circulation going, keep your ankles and feet flexible, relieve stress and burn a few more calories. Just in case you’re still not convinced, many of my clients have reported that pacing helps them think better. So, if you are saddled with a problem and can’t find a solution, try pacing.
3). Don’t just stand there, do something. When you are standing, shift your weight side to side. Add toe raises, mini squats, and small lunges to your routine. Try standing on one leg to improve your standing balance. The movements don’t have to be big; small gentle movements done slowly and correctly has a huge positive impact.
Just a few minutes of exercise during your work day can improve your health, level of fitness, increase your energy, and improve your concentration. The key to getting the maximum benefit from your exercise is not how many repetitions you do, but how you do them. The focus should be on the quality of your movement, not the quantity. You will also enjoy the additional benefits of strengthening your back and postural muscles, as well as a decrease in back pain and neck pain.
Most of all, remember that if you don’t move it, you will lose it. And wouldn’t it be a shame to lose all that leg power? So, move it or lose it. Your legs will thank you!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP