Stand Up for Yourself!

Stand Up for Yourself!

Don’t take this news sitting down: Adding more spells of walking or standing to your day can add years to your life.

Heard this one? Sitting, it seems, is the new smoking. While it’s no surprise that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for your health, new research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation suggests that even regular exercise may not be enough to stave off heart failure. In the study, men who sat for five or more hours a day were 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than men who sat just two hours a day, no matter how much exercise they got. Translation: If you get in a heart-pumping workout in the morning or evening but sit all day in between (in your car, at home on the sofa), you’re not doing your heart any favors.

Keep up the sweat-inducing workouts for sure, but pay some attention to the rest of your day too. Get up from that chair! Try these strategies recommended by Jacque Ratliff, an exercise physiologist and education specialist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Take a stand. Investigate an adjustable standing desk. The offices at ACE, where Ratliff works, are equipped with desks that allow employees to switch between sitting and standing. If this isn’t an option, look for other out-of-the-chair opportunities. “Stand when you make a phone call, while brainstorming ideas, or every time someone enters your office and wants to chat,” Ratliff suggests.

Have a ball. Ditch your office chair for an exercise or stability ball. Yes, you’re still sitting, but the instability of being on an inflatable rubber ball engages your core muscles and helps improve balance.

Hold meetings on the go. Don’t just swap your office chair for a similar one in the conference room. Ask coworkers to talk and walk instead of sitting through another meeting. If walking around the office poses too many distractions, go outside and walk around the parking lot or office building.

Step it up. Set aside part of your lunchtime to go for a stroll around the building. Take the stairs to use restrooms located on a different floor. Get off one bus or train stop earlier than needed and walk the rest of the way, or park in the farthest spot from your building.

Set reminders. Because you can easily get caught up in a project and not realize how long you’ve been immobile, a computer program or smartphone application that will remind you to move away from the screen and do something active for a few minutes can be helpful. Two to try: Workrave and Big Stretch Reminder. You could also simply set an alarm on your watch or computer.

Stretch and move. Sitting all day can be hard on your neck and shoulders. Whenever you need a break, get up from your chair and do some neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, wrist circles, and calf stretches. Or try the following yoga poses recommended by Ratliff.         

Standing Cow Pose:

  • Stand with your legs hip width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Place a hand on each upper thigh with fingertips facing inward.
  • Inhale and arch your back, gazing upward. Hold for three breaths.

Standing Cat Pose:

  • From Standing Cow Pose, exhale, round your back, and tuck your pelvis under. Your gaze should fall downward toward the floor. Hold for three breaths.
  • Repeat this pose sequence for as long as it feels good and time permits.