More and more research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is linked to many chronic diseases. Like smoking, sitting for long periods of time at the desk jobs many of us perform means that our movement throughout the day is minimal. Even if you exercise each day and work on your feet like me, we lack the diverse activity and movement our bodies require. In addition to 30-60 minute workouts, it is just as important, if not more important, to get more gentle movement in throughout the day.
Gentle movement consists of light intensity activity such as an easy walk. This type of activity is most beneficial when it is done throughout the day to break up periods of inactivity. It takes place in addition to the recommended moderate to vigorous physical activity 5-6 days per week.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and the increased number of people working at home, many clients as well as family and friends have reported an increase in low back pain, knee pain and hip pain. I believe the reason is because when we work from home, we tend to move even less than if we go into work at the office. Often the restroom is closer, so you have less walking to and from bathroom breaks. Lunches at home tend to get worked through rather than getting up to go to a break room, cafeteria or your car to go out for lunch. Meetings that were once down the hall or in another building now happen right in front of you on your computer. So, while working from home may have kept many of us safe from the pandemic, it may be wreaking havoc on our bodies by making us even more sedentary.
More Movement Benefits Your Body
There are several physical benefits of moving throughout the day. One is improved lymphatic flow. This allows the waste products made in our body to be moved through our system and excreted. If the movement is done in weight bearing, such as walking, squats, etc., it will improve your bone density. And research shows that interrupting sitting time with light activity lowers blood glucose and insulin levels following a meal (1). Likewise, lipid metabolism, which is related to triglyceride levels and HDL cholesterol, also improves with gentle movement (3).
My challenge to you is to begin to add brief episodes of movement throughout your day, on top of your regular exercise routine. Set a timer and get up and move, ideally for 2 minutes, every 20 minutes. This could be in the form of walking, squats, knee ups, arm raises, burpees, pushups, etc. Now, I realize many meetings last longer than 20 minutes, and you can’t always just go for a walk or bust out into some squats. If you can’t do it every 20 minutes, then try to incorporate gentle movement for 5-7 minutes every hour.
Investing a little bit of time throughout your day will decrease the aches and pains you may be feeling and improve your metabolic function and cardiovascular health. A little investment now, will gain you many quality years now and in the years to come.