Our bodies were made to move, yet our modern lifestyles have us logging a lot of sedentary hours—especially for those who spend a lot of time in their car, work an office job, or indulge in a nightly habit of streaming television shows. Combine all three and it’s easy to slip into being sedentary during most hours on most days.
Many functions in our body perform better if we move around regularly throughout the day—just standing up once every hour and stretching or doing a few jumping jacks brings enormous benefits.
When you stay active:
- Your circadian rhythm stays aligned: Movement in your muscles signals to the rest of your body’s internal clocks that it’s time to stay awake, helping you remain alert and perform at your best.
- Your blood and lymphatic circulation improve: Exercise increases blood flow and the movement in your lymphatic system, helping deliver nutrients and remove waste across your body.
- Your metabolism aligns with your body’s needs: Staying active uses up your body’s energy resources rather than forcing your body to store them in undesirable places (e.g., as fat around your internal organs).
When you spend most of your time in a sedentary state, you increase your risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Certain cancers
- Anxiety and depression
- Lower skeletal muscle mass
- Elevated blood pressure
- Higher cholesterol
Tips for Staying Active
The good news is that even tiny measures to avoid sedentary time count: getting up and moving a bit every 50 minutes helps your body stay active and gives your mind a necessary break.
It’s easier said than done, however. If you have a busy week of intensive days at your desk or in meetings, try these strategies for staying active:
- Walk to lunch: Try picking a restaurant that gives you the opportunity to take a longer stroll and consider inviting colleagues to join in.
- Break up hour-long meetings: Rather than defaulting to 60-minute meetings, try shorter sessions or ending early. Even ~55 minutes gives you the chance to stretch your legs in between.
- Walking meetings: If you’re about to brainstorm with colleagues, consider moving the meeting outside the office. Moving while you talk can remove the likelihood that people are distracted by phones or emails and may inspire creative ideas as well.
- Walking with friends: Social activities often revolve around food and can result in additional inactivity. Next time you’re meeting a friend for coffee or dinner, consider incorporating a walk around the neighborhood into your time together.
Society is coming up with creative ideas to counter sedentary lifestyles—standing desks, step counters, and line after line of fashionable sneakers and comfortable work flats. You can even find apps that gamify movement by encouraging you to run from imaginary zombies or estimate steps to climb the Empire State building.
Simply adding more daily movement (a quick walk, a few stretches, etc.), will keep the pep in your step, so find what gets you off that velcro seat—find what works for you.