Sitting for extended periods of time is linked to an increased risk for many health problems. If the type of work you do for a living involves long periods of sitting, you don’t have to accept those increased health risks sitting down. In fact, simply by breaking up your sitting routine with short exercise rounds and prioritizing some simple exercises you can manage on breaks, you can improve both your mental and physical health.
Some employers are supporting employees’ fitness considerations by implementing sit-to-stand desks. However, even if your company doesn’t boast fitness equipment as some do—or feature staff walking clubs as some do—you can take control of your own daily fitness by trying some of the following work-friendly exercises on your own. If you’re concerned about your fitness level and ability to perform any of the following activities, talk to your healthcare provider before implementing your fitness routine.
Importance of Getting Up to Exercise
If you sit down for extended periods during your work day, you should be aware of why sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for you. Not only can sitting for a long time feel monotonous, but it is also linked to numerous health concerns. If you’re already out of shape, your risk for various health conditions may be elevated. However, by incorporating some exercise into your daily routine, you can improve your health and reduce your risk for certain health conditions.
What Are the Health Risks of Sitting Too Much?
Many jobs require sitting for extended time periods. Jobs like office work or long-distance driving can lead to elevated risks for diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to medical research, sitting down on the job is associated with increased risks for:
- High blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Vascular problems
- Spinal issues
- Back pain
- Heart disease
- Some cancers
By reducing the amount of time you spend sitting by taking short stretching and exercise breaks, you can reduce your risks for these health problems and improve your overall health.
How Does Exercise Improve Health?
Routine exercise supports our fitness and health. First, it helps us control weight. At a time when obesity rates are high, weight control is on a lot of people’s minds. The more physical activity you engage in, the more calories you can burn. Being active helps your body reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also help you cut the risks for many diseases, boosts your energy level, and even promotes a healthy sleep routine.
Additionally, regular exercise can be beneficial for mental health. During exercise, the brain and body are flooded by ‘feel-good’ endorphins. The body sends out these endorphins to trigger the healing process of muscles, but these endorphins also have a positive effect on mood.
Exercises You Can Do During Your Work Day
Even if you work at a job that requires you to sit to perform your work, you can weave some healthful exercise into your day. These exercises can make a difference for your mental and physical health. Too many people are under the impression that you have to go to the gym or set aside an hour or longer to exercise, but that’s not necessarily the case. While those activities are terrific, even the simple exercises and those short in duration will have a collectively positive effect on your physical and mental fitness.
The following are a few ways you can introduce more physical fitness activity into your workday:
Standing up once every hour may not be enough to improve your physical fitness. Instead, consider standing up every 30 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone so that it vibrates in 30-minute intervals. Even if you only take a moment to stand up and stretch, you’ll be able to improve your circulation. Consider what work activities you can perform while standing up. Stand up while you talk on the phone, for instance. If you can switch to a stand-up desk, that’s even better. You can burn more calories standing up instead of sitting.
Stretching improves blood flow to your muscles, so working in daily stretches is an important part of any fitness routine. Take a stretch break every hour. Alternate between stretching your upper body–neck and arms, for instance–and your lower body–legs and ankles. Some stretches you can actually perform at your desk. You can stretch while reading your email. Daily stretching can reduce the risk of injuries when you do work out and it can also help you reduce stress.
Take a Walk
Devote your regular work breaks and part of your lunch to walking. A 15 minute walk each day adds up to five hours of walking per month. These short walks can help you burn more calories each day. Keep a step counter on you so that you can gauge how much you actually walk while on the job. Make a game of it and try to fit in more steps each week. Remember, the more you walk and the less you sit are better for your health.
Use a Stability Ball
Add some low-impact abdominal exercise to your daily routine and sit on a stability ball for part of your day. Sitting on a stability ball helps you to strengthen your core abdominal muscles. Using this ball for just an hour a day allows you to strengthen and tighten those muscles. By the end of the week, you’ll have worked those muscles out for five hours.
Take the Stairs
If you work in a tall building with an elevator, try to take the stairs any chance you get. Climbing stairs gets your heart pumping and can even burn more calories than jogging. If the weather is rainy, you can skip your daily walk and switch to a 10-minute stair-climbing activity. Stair climbing can also help you work out the muscles in your legs and abdomen, making it a great all-around exercise you can do on the job.
Talk to your employer about investing in new office furniture that includes stand-up desks for employees who want to decrease the number of hours they spend sitting. You can also revamp your own desk by bringing in a riser that you can set your laptop on to do work while standing. If your co-workers are interested in increasing their fitness level on the job, set up a walking group. You can meet early before work to get a walk in or walk for part of your lunch break.
Manage Your Self Care
Sitting down at work has a way of making you feel sluggish. But if you’re leaving work each day feeling burnt out both physically and mentally, and it’s affecting your life, it may be worthwhile to see a therapist. What you’re experiencing could be signs of a mental health or mood disturbance. While exercise can help you combat the symptoms of these disturbances, they usually demand professional support.
Feeling burned out can affect your workplace productivity and motivation to work. Some people may experience high levels of stress on the job that leave them feeling overwhelmed. These negative feelings can impact their personal lives and relationships. FHE Health’s team of experienced mental health professionals specializes in helping people get their mental health back on track.