More movement, more life, or so the research suggests. So how do you keep moving when you can barely spare five minutes away from your desk? We found out…
Our modern lives see us sitting on the train or bus into the office, working a 9-5 that’s really an 8-7, then settling in for a Netflix marathon. Often, the furthest we walk is to the coffee shop on our lunch break, and the NHS says that the average person spends nine hours sat down, not including the amount of time asleep.
You might think you can combat that with one-hour workout in the morning to get the body moving and heart rate up. Sure, exercise has been proven to reduce risk of heart disease and other illnesses associated with inactivity, but “it’s important to remember that our human bodies didn’t ‘evolve’ to be reduced to 8 hours behind a desk,” explains personal trainer and yoga teacher Shona Vertue.
“Movement is an essential part of physiological and psychological health. Most systems within the body benefit, if not completely rely on, movement to function. A great example is the lymphatic system – an important component of the immune system that needs movement in order to rid the body of toxic waste.”
Well, consider us sold. But how do you find more time to move when you barely have time to snaffle a sandwich at your desk? Here are some simple tips:
Walk, don’t stand
Vertue swears by walking up the escalators rather than “riding up while you scroll mindlessly through your overflowing inbox” – you’ll even save time with this one. Vertue also advises getting up to do your necessary tasks, like cooking: “When you really get into it, cooking can be a very active task, whether it’s mashing potatoes or kneading dough. Dancing in the kitchen counts too (or any room really, but the kitchen is the most fun place).”
Take a break
Taking regular activity breaks, even if it’s just going for a walk around the office, makes a difference. In fact, the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines report recommends breaking up long periods of sitting time with activity for just two minutes to beat some of the effects of inactivity.
Try walking meetings
Sure, this sounds like some Silicon Valley nonsense, but it’s actually recommended by Public Health England as a way to stop the “perils of your desk”. And there’s a reason why getting outside is favoured by the big wigs at tech companies, including Apple and Uber. Studies have proven they help with ‘dynamic thinking’, as three quarters of people came up with more ideas while walking than sitting.
Get a standing desk
While the NHS states that there is currently not enough evidence to set a time limit on how much time people should sit each day, some research suggests we should be standing for around four hours a day. You can also tick off your to-do list by working at a standing desk.
Do desk yoga
Don’t freak out: simple stretches can be done at your desk to keep things flowing. Pretty similar to what you might do on an aeroplane, these might include twisting in your chair, stretching your arms up and over your head and bending down to touch your toes. If you can spare five minutes, this video by Vertue is simple to follow (but you might want to find a non-glass walled meeting room).
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).