Are you sitting comfortable? Probably. According to a survey this week that’s how most of us are spending our time these days.
Thanks to coronavirus restrictions and a rise in working from home, there has been a huge increase in the time spent in chairs and sofas around Ireland. According to the study, more than half of us are now sitting for an average of two hours and 40 minutes longer each day than we would have done in our traditional office setting. With sedentary behaviour associated with a wealth of negative health complaints, including increased risk of heart disease and stroke, the Irish Heart Foundation is urging desk-workers to Escape Your Chair. But just what small changes can we do to sit less and move more during the working-from-home day?
1 Have a versatile desk space
Want to move more? Have a desk that moves. Research into height adjustable sit-stand desks shows that users reduce their sitting time by more than an hour with studies also revealing a rise in performance and quality of life. Interestingly, experts recommend a 50:50 approach to sitting and standing while at a desk, with full-time standing desks potentially posing their own issues around varicose veins and back pain.
2 Set a regular ‘Move!’ alarm
In his book, In Praise of Walking — The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us, TCD neuroscientist Shane O’Mara addresses the importance of regular movement throughout the day. Long walks or workouts at the end of the day, are all well and good, but we also need to get up frequently throughout the day.
“Our bodies and brains are designed for, and need, lots of regular movement right throughout the course of the day,” he says. “Lots of regular, reliable, rhythmic, up-tempo walking throughout the day stimulates the production of molecules promoting brain health and even brain resilience to the effects of chronic stress.” So we don’t lose track of how long we’ve been sitting, O’Mara suggests setting an alarm on your phone or computer reminding us to get up and move around every 25/30 minutes and monitoring steps with a pedometer.
3 Workout with your kettle
“Now that the majority of us are currently based at home, working, living and possibly homeschooling simultaneously, it is vital to carve out some extra movement in you and your family’s day to support everyone’s wellbeing, metal health and physical health,” says Linda Sankey of Get Ireland Walking. “Get creative! Challenge yourself to walk on the spot for as long as it takes to boil the kettle. Every step counts.”
4 Walk and talk
“Always take phone calls standing and walking,” says O’Mara. “Walking for an hour-long call can add four or five thousand steps, and you won’t notice this at all.” Use technology like bluetooth headsets and dictaphones stop you feeling chained to the desk.
5 Take on an exercise challenge
The gym might be closed and your exercise class cancelled but that’s no excuse to slump on the sofa. Signing up to a group activity challenge (like Couch to 5k) will not only get you up on your feet, but studies also show we’re more committed — and more productive — when we exercise as part of a collective.
6 Create a commute
Just because you’re not having to make your way to the office doesn’t mean you have to move straight from breakfast table to desk.
“Do a 30-minute walk before work,” recommends Cork-based GP Nick Flynn. “Fifteen minutes away from your front door and 15 minutes back. It’s the most efficient use of time you could have and probably far less time-consuming than your previous commute.”
7 Forget short-cuts
Whether it’s nipping to the shops or doing the school-run, stop opting for the quickest option and stay on your feet longer. Look for opportunities to be more active — swap automatic car washes for manual, ditch home deliveries for a dander to the supermarket, shun elevators for stairs.
8 Take Advantage of TV time
A Japanese study found that ‘prolonged television viewing was associated with an increased risk of pulmonary embolism death’. “Resist the urge to fast-forward through ads and instead use the breaks to stand and stretch,” says Dr Flynn. “Every little bit of movement makes a difference.”