For most of us, the pandemic has caused us to become more sedentary and less active. With gyms and studios shuttered for much of the year, team sports canceled and less opportunity for active transportation while commuting, we’ve found ourselves spending more time sitting in front of screens than usual.
A systematic review published in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found that of 66 studies reviewed, the majority reported a decrease in physical activity due to pandemic lockdowns and an increase in sedentary behavior among adults and children.
We all know the negative consequences of too much sitting— but what can we do about it? To start with, get up from your desk more often and take mini movement breaks throughout the day – walk around, get some water, or do some easy stretches beside your desk.
Reduce your sedentary time
People who spend the majority of their day sitting have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, colon, endometrial and lung cancers, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
As frightening as this sounds, you can reduce these risks by increasing the amount of physical activity you get each day, ideally by getting at least 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily.
Various studies report different combinations of the amount of exercise needed to offset the negative effects of sitting; but in general, the consensus is just to get up more often.
Movement breaks: Start small and spread them throughout your day
Creating positive habits is harder said than done. According to the BMJ article, in order to change behavior, one must have the capability (psychological and physical), opportunity (physical and social) and motivation (reflective and automatic).
We break down how to meet those three requirements below.
Tips for making movement breaks a habit
- Capability: Choose movement and exercise you enjoy and can do easily in your environment. For example, if you live in a condo and can use the stairs, try doing a 10-minute stair climb two times a day. If you prefer doing yoga or Pilates, keep a yoga mat by your desk and take breaks to do a few mobilizing stretches, releasing tension in your shoulders, back, neck and wrists.
- Opportunity: Remind yourself to take breaks by setting a timer every hour. If possible, stand while in virtual meetings or on the phone. Every time you go for water/coffee or to the bathroom, incorporate a few squats or pushups into your routine.
- Motivation: Try to get other colleagues or friends involved to keep each other accountable. Set a goal for the amount of exercise or steps you want to achieve in a day and try to stick to it all week. Record the movement you do in a journal and observe how it makes you feel. Do you notice improvement in your mood or level of focus?
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Get started with these easy desk stretches
We asked Merrithew™ Lead Instructor Trainer Sarah Jarvis to demonstrate some easy desk stretches that you can do at or near your desk while working from home.
Using the Peanut Massage Ball, she focuses on an often neglected part of the body— the feet, a place where we hold a lot of tension.
She also demonstrates some exercises to release tension in the neck and lower back. Give it a try and let us know how these movements make you feel @Merrithew.
What desk stretches do you want to see next? Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series.
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