If you’re reading this article, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re sitting down while at your computer, or lying down while on your phone, or sitting down while on your phone, or reclining while using your tablet… you get the gist. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not moving right now. You probably rarely are.
Don’t worry, no one’s trying to guilt you—feel free to place the blame on society’s late 20th-century pivot to office life. Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950. Physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of the U.S. workforce. The average office worker now sits for around 15 hours every day! It’s not your fault if you find yourself motionless for the majority of the day. You’re one person among many who are facing the exact same problem.
But this doesn’t mean you should be content with the way things are.
Sitting is killing you… literally
Sitting all day can cause health problems and even lead to early death, with risks comparable to those posed by obesity and smoking. It’s a factor in developing diabetes and heart disease. Even if you exercise for an hour before work every day, you won’t be able to compensate for the health risks associated with a whole day of sitting.
The sedentary lifestyle isn’t sustainable—for any of us. Still, you’re not likely to quit your office job even if it is slowly killing you. So what else can you do about it?
Movement is everything
This article was originally going to answer that question in list format, but every item on that list essentially boiled down to one thing: Get up and move. The type of movement doesn’t matter as much as the frequency. You barely even need to concern yourself with the duration.
Like we said, it doesn’t matter if you work out for twenty minutes, or half an hour, or an hour before sitting down to work at your desk. What matters is that you have some kind of way to get your blood flowing multiple times a day. The human body wasn’t made to sit still for an hour, let alone twelve.
When to move
The best schedule is to take a ten- or fifteen-minute break at least once an hour, and to keep your focus on work in between those breaks. This aligns with the body’s natural rhythm of high and low activity.
You might think that a break is just another disruption in your tight schedule, but the reality is that getting up to stretch and walk around will not only increase your lifespan, it’ll make you more comfortable and productive in the long run.
Moving alleviates pain
Remaining in the same position for hours at a time can wreak havoc on your body. Even if you try to be conscious of your posture, sitting at a desk usually results in sustained tension in your back and shoulders. Plus, muscles require frequent use in order to stay strong and flexible. Weak muscles are the chief culprit of wrist and back pain that so often accompany a desk job.
Strengthening exercises are the best way to remedy this pain, but even getting up at least once an hour to stretch will help work your muscles and release tension.
Moving increases focus
Small bursts of physical activity can improve your concentration in other areas of your life. A short, brisk walk is the perfect level of intensity to get your brain back on track with the project you’ve been slogging through. And, if you have the time, a more intensive workout like a quick run can significantly enhance concentration for up to an hour.
Moving lowers stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any form of exercise or movement can decrease your stress. In general, taking a relaxing break—one where you detach from work completely and take time to reset and refocus—can help you recover from and reduce stress. Movement helps with this because it gives you something else to focus on besides work, and releases dopamine to boot.
Besides being amazing for your health, taking time to destress also improves productivity, meaning there are no more excuses for not getting up from your chair.
Consider walking a couple of loops around the office, or, if you work from home, taking a stroll around the block. Walk or jog up a flight of stairs. Stretch at your desk, do some jumping jacks, or keep a resistance band at your desk to do a few back and arm exercises.
Stand up, save a life
38% of Americans now say they would be able to work completely from home, meaning that for many people, for most of the day, there’s no real relationship between them and their physical surroundings. But just because most of our work takes place inside a screen doesn’t mean our body stops existing in the meantime. We might not be hunting and gathering, but our health and happiness are still impacted by how we treat the physical self that carries us through the world.
Getting up and moving around throughout the day not only makes you healthier and more productive, it also negates the deathly effects of sitting still. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to make your life easier—and longer.
So quit reading this and take a moment to move!