“Sitting is the new smoking,” I remember hearing a friend say a couple of years ago and was immediately taken aback. How could that be true?
Well, according to the CDC, prolonged sitting time has emerged as a risk factor for various negative health outcomes, including cancer, heart disease, and obesity, just to name a few. Recently, a study published in Sport Sciences for Health found that sitting for prolonged periods of time could also have adverse effects on your mental well-being, in addition to your physical health.
The bottom line is, spending full days sitting at a desk or on the couch can certainly take a toll on the human body. As if the daily grind isn’t enough, the pandemic has also severely limited the ability to participate in physical and social activities outside of the home. As a result, staying active can be difficult for many people.
As a health and wellness coach, here are a few tips and tricks I recommend to help you sit less during the day. Trust me, both your physical and mental health will thank you!
1. Take a 10-minute walk after every meal.
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Get moving after meals! This practice keeps your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn helps keep hormones in balance, combats that midday slump, supports metabolism, and helps aid in digestion.
Walking regularly can help ease symptoms related to chronic mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Taking a walk provides the best of both worlds. It offers the physical benefits of exercise while also boosting your emotional well-being. It’s a win-win!
2. Try a walking meditation.
Whether you’re new to meditation or a pro, switching up your practice to walking form has major benefits. A walking meditation is perfect for people who sit for long periods of time. The walking practice helps to get the blood flowing, especially to the legs. It also helps to alleviate feelings of stagnancy as well as providing you with the additional benefits of walking mentioned above. Check out this walking meditation exercise.
3. Take a 5-minute standing stretch.
Taking a relaxing day to binge-watch your favorite show? We get it. There is nothing wrong with taking it easy; in fact, there are many benefits to resting. That said, be sure you’re not sitting for hours on end. In between your favorite episodes, get moving with a quick standing stretch.
Take a dance break. Yes, you may want to save this one for when you’re home alone but dancing to one of your favorite tunes not only gets you moving, but it has incredible mood-boosting properties, as well. Dancing it out (like walking) is a win-win since you get both physical and mental benefits.
Yeah, I said it. Clean your home! Taking a few minutes in your day to clean up your surroundings will not only get you up and moving, but studies show a clean space can help boost energy and clear your mind.
6. Set up reminders or alerts.
Do you even know how long you’ve actually been sitting? It’s so easy to get caught up in work or watching your favorite show and not even realize you’ve been sitting for hours. A warning message, vibrating alarm, or audible beep is likely to get your attention and prompt you to actually get up and move.
There are also so many wearable fitness trackers available on the market, at various price points, that will alert you when you’ve been stationary for too long. When you get an inactivity alert, get up and move for two to five minutes to break up the sitting time.
7. Try standing while you work.
If you work at a job that requires you to sit on your computer all day long, consider looking into a professional, ergonomic designed sit-to-stand desk (and if you don’t have one, check out these tips to make your office chair more ergonomic). Many of these desks clock in at under $200, and some companies now even provide their employees with this option if you’re back working in the office.
If you decide not to switch out your traditional sit-down desk, you can still form habits to stand up during the workday:
- Stand up during each phone call.
- Stand up every time you need to text on your mobile phone.
- If you’re in an office, stand up when a co-worker visits your desk.
- If you need to speak to a co-worker, walk over to their desk instead of texting or emailing.
- If you’re working from home, take a five-minute standing stretch every hour.
8. Anytime you are inclined to sit, stand instead.
On public transportation, when socializing, writing a text, or making a call: Stand up and/or take a walk any time you can. This may be a challenge at first, but once you become more mindful of how often you sit, you’ll get into the habit of standing and getting your body moving. Your physical and mental health depend on it.