A few years back, I changed careers, moving from a position that had me on my feet most of the day to become a full-time writer. Overnight, my activity level went from very active to sedentary.
It was a great move for my career but a not-so-great move for my physique. Over two years, I slowly gained twenty pounds, even though I hadn’t changed what I was eating.
Activity level plays a part in metabolism - the rate at which your body burns calories. While it’s not the secret to weight loss, when you’re active, small decisions you make throughout the day - like whether to have that cookie or drink that soft drink - may not have the same impact on your weight as they would if you’re not as active.
Over time, those little decisions that I had been getting away with for the last ten years took their toll. Every extra nibble stuck around and it added up. I realized it was time to make some changes.
So how can you get and stay fit if your job has you sitting down all day long? Here are a few tips that can help:
Experts say “You get what you measure” so simply measuring your activity level can help you stay focused on moving more. There are several electronic devices that monitor your activity (steps) and synch to your computer. I received a FitBit One for my birthday last year and was a bit shocked to discover how few steps I took every day. While 10,000 steps is recommended, I was coming in at around 2,500. Since then, I’ve made it a point to take a walk every day, sometimes twice a day, to get closer to that 10,000 figure more often.
When I get up early to take a 30-minute stroll through the neighborhood, the whole day just seems to go to better. It’s a good habit to create and it starts the day off with a focus on health and fitness. (And did you know that walking for 30 minutes every day can lower your risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running can?)
It also gives me time to think about what I’ll be doing that day and since I always take my smart phone, if I get any great ideas, I can record them.
If you struggle with developing a morning walk habit, consider giving yourself a small reward - perhaps a manicure, a new piece of jewelry or a massage - after you’ve done it every day for 30 days. (It takes at least that long to develop what can be considered a “habit.”) Finding a walking buddy works well, too, as who wants to leave someone standing at the corner waiting for them at 6:30am?
I work in digital advertising, so everybody emails everything to each other. You might be sitting right across the aisle from someone and they’ll send you an email instead of leaning over and asking you a question. When I first got my FitBit and noticed how few steps I took in a day, I started getting up to find someone if I needed to talk to them. Now it’s a habit. If I get up to find someone and they’re not at their desk, that’s okay. I got a few more steps in and at that point, I’ll let myself send an email.
If your job requires you to be seated all day, professionals suggest that you set a timer and get up for a quick walking break every hour. There are several free websites or you can use your smart phone’s built-in timer.
Then get up and move your body! Simple actions like walking briskly or marching in place for just a few minutes every hour can reduce blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol and your waist size.
When standing, you burn 40% more calories than you do sitting. Since standing all day has its own hazards, experts recommend you spend an equal amount of time standing and sitting throughout the day. Be sure to wear shoes with strong support and consider a cushioning mat under your feet to avoid stressing your lower legs. (There are several affordable options available at stores like Staples and Ikea, plus a quick web search can reveal a few DIY options.)
If you’re in the position to suggest it, ask if your team can have “standing meetings” instead of the more traditional sit-around-a-table style. You may find that these gatherings are more energized and efficient. For one-on-one conversations, suggest a walk through the hallways or even outside, if the weather cooperates. Every step counts and a bit of sunshine can be good for your mood. Plus - bonus - you’ll burn more calories!
While it may not be easy to offset the hours you spend sitting at your desk, following these tips will help keep your activity level up during the 40 to 50 hours you spend at the office each week.
What about you? How do you stay active at work?
Lori Jo Vest is an author, a social media copywriter, wife to the love of her life, and mom to an uber-smart teenage son. When she turned 50, she experienced the typical angst about the milestone, so she started a blog to explore losing 40 pounds and leaving her 40s behind at www.dropping40.com.
Standing Desk: drewsaunders via photopin cc
People Walking: Presidio of Monterey: DLIFLC & USAG via photopin cc