When the weather takes a turn for the worse, our exercise and eating habits tend to change and we adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We stop riding our bikes, going for long runs along the beach and eating lighter meals with fresh local produce. And even without the change in seasons, many of us are already sedentary all day, in jobs that require long periods of sitting and working from a computer.
The irony of this situation is that after long periods of inactivity, we feel tired and lethargic—even though we haven’t expended any physical energy. This is when we often end our day sitting even more, either ‘relaxing’ in front of the TV or by reading a book. Or we’ll try eating more for energy, when our bodies actually need fewer calories if they are inactive for most of the day.
There are multiple studies showing that a sedentary lifestyle may lead to premature death, a risk that’s higher for those that sit still for more than four hours a day (that’s it…only four hours!). Being inactive can be a risk factor for multiple health issues including depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis and many more.
To counteract a more sedentary lifestyle, try the following tips:
- Go outside – Make a point to bundle up and go for a short walk, even if it’s just around the block, to the mailbox, the park or to the store. Get yourself a good waterproof jacket, rain boots and/or umbrella (we live in a temperate rainforest after all) and walk to your errands.
- The 20-minute rule – Set your timer every 20 minutes to take a break. Take a stretch, get a glass of water and walk over to your co-worker instead of sending an email. Place your trash can further away from your desk so you have to walk to it. This rule applies while you’re watching TV too…get up during commercial breaks and stretch.
- Take a stand – Instead of sitting down for lunch in front of your computer or a book, try standing and reading instead. Stand up whenever possible—while on the phone, waiting, riding the bus or even in a meeting (this is becoming more popular in progressive companies).
- Hoof it – Find creative ways to incorporate more activity into your workday. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator—even if you walk up three flights and use the elevator for the remainder. Or get off at the bus stop before your regular stop and walk the extra block.
- Get a leg up – After a long day, put your legs up the wall to restfully restore your energy. In yoga this is called Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose). This is one of our favourite things to do after a long, stressful day and it’s better than a nap because it revives you for the evening. A passive stretch, it allows the blood to drain from the legs and calms the nervous system. When trying it, your buttocks should be fairly close to the wall, and your legs should be straight up the wall, creating a gentle stretch in the hamstrings. Close your eyes, exhale and stay in the pose from 5-20 minutes.
What do you do to counteract a sedentary lifestyle? Share your tips with us.