19 May 10 Tips to Move More
By Colleen Fisher Tully
Once a well-deserved rest at the end of the day, Canadians now sit around so much we’re putting our health at risk. Here’s how to break the sedentary cycle.
If you think exercising every week means you don’t live a sedentary lifestyle, think again.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, the average Canadian adult spends nearly 10 hours a day being sedentary. Physical activity specialist Christa Costas-Bradstreet says this is happening because we’re engineering physical activity out of our daily lives: less active jobs, drive-through meals, long commutes then wrapping up the day sitting in front of the TV. Our children don’t fare much better, either. “Kids sit as many hours a day as their parents spend time at work,” she says.
Is being sedentary the same as being inactive? Not quite. If you’re inactive, it means you’re not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, which according to Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines calls for 150 minutes per week for adults, and 60 minutes per day for kids and teens of heart-pumping physical activity. Sedentary behaviour, on the other hand, is characterized by any waking behaviour that expends a very low amount of energy while in a sitting or reclining posture.
All this sitting around increases our risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and a number of other illnesses, including cancer. “So, just because you may get 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day, that won’t negate the consequences of sitting,” says Costas-Bradstreet.
The good news is that because sedentary behaviour is defined as time spent in a sitting or reclining posture, the simple solution is to … stand up! “It doesn’t matter for how long, just the act of standing up is the ‘cure’ for sedentary behaviour,” she says. Here are Costas-Bradstreet’s 10 solutions to decrease sedentary time throughout the day:
- Fidget while you work: Apart from standing breaks you can march on the spot, do toe-and-heel raises and shrug your shoulders.
- Stretch: You don’t have to be a yogi; getting up and doing a few simple upper and lower body stretches will break the sedentary cycle. Stretching also enhances flexibility and range of motion.
- Visit colleagues instead of emailing: Getting out of your seat and walking over to talk to a colleague, instead of texting or emailing, gives you a quick break and an opportunity to interact with office mates.
- Have stand up or walking meetings: Suggest a walking meeting for a small number of people. If you can’t get out for a walk or you have a very large group, invite people to stand up at any time. This works for large conferences, too!
- Use a stand-up desk: If you don’t have the budget, put a crate or something sturdy on your desk to set your computer on.
- Drink lots of fluids: Hydrate yourself throughout the day so you’ll have to make more trips to the washroom. No kidding!
- Actively watch TV: Iron clothes, do light exercises, or even just stand up during commercials. The fact that you are standing makes you no longer sedentary.
- Do a quick activity circuit: Sprint up your stairs, do wall pushups in the living room and do squats in the bedroom before sitting back down again.
- Stand while talking on the phone: Bonus points for walking lunges.
- Walk before you work: Move around your building, house or office before settling into work, again at lunch, and once before getting in the car to go home.
Costa-Bradstreet’s final advice: “Get up AT LEAST once an hour.”