By: Lisa Truesdale
“Working vacation.” “Exact estimate.” “Jumbo shrimp.”
These are all examples of oxymorons: two words that are commonly used together, but that seem to contradict each other. And here’s our favorite: Active sitting.
When we’re sedentary for long periods of time—whether it’s a regular thing like working at a desk all day, or an occasional event like a long airplane flight or a Netflix marathon—sitting without moving affects our body and mind. And these days, with email, online shopping, direct deposits, and other such conveniences making it so we don’t have to get up and go somewhere, we’re getting around even less than before.
Moving our muscles makes everything flow smoothly through our body, so it makes sense that, when we’re not moving, things just aren’t flowing as well. Being sedentary can lead to health issues like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, weight gain, poor posture, and muscle degeneration.
But with active sitting (also called dynamic sitting), you’re making a commitment to your body that, even though you’re not technically exercising, you’re still taking the time to keep things moving and flowing. Here are six tips for keeping your body moving well all day long.
1. Stand whenever you can.
Got a long phone call to make? No one says you have to sit down while you’re talking (even if it’s a video chat). Walk around, march in place, do some lunges. If you’re watching TV, get up and move every time there’s a commercial—or better yet, tidy up, pace around, or stretch while you’re watching. When you’re pumping gas, don’t get back into the car to wait; march in place, stretch, or jog around your vehicle a few times. Or if you already have a standing desk, make it even more active with a balance board.
2. Get your co-workers involved.
Who says meetings have to be held sitting completely still around a conference table? If everyone is willing—and if it’s not a PowerPoint presentation—conduct your next meeting while you’re all walking laps around the building. Better yet, advocate for an on-site workout room or a company-wide yoga class.
3. Treat yourself to a new desk chair.
Balance Balls and Balance Ball Chairs offer a slightly unstable base that forces your core muscles to work, even while you’re sitting. Keep feet flat to support one-quarter of your weight, and try the exercises in the guide that comes with the ball. A Balance Disc is an inflatable cushion that turns any chair into an active seat. Or, if you’re not ready for one of these options, find a chair with no armrests; not being able to slump against the sides will force you to sit up straight with good posture.
4. Reorganize your workspace.
If your office is set up so that all your files and other supplies are within easy reach, you’re missing out on lots of opportunities to move throughout the day. Put your filing cabinet across the room so you have to get up when you need something from it, and hook your printer up on the opposite wall if possible.
5. Keep a second set of exercise equipment at the office.
Tuck a resistance band or cord into your desk drawer and pull it out every hour or so for a few exercises. Unroll your yoga mat and practice a few poses, like cat pose or cow pose, that will improve the extension and flexion in your back and keep your muscles from getting stiff.
6. Continue the tried-and-true methods.
They sound like no-brainers, but they really work: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park as far away as possible in the parking lot. Walk laps at lunchtime instead of taking an hour to eat a sandwich. Do lunges or march in place if you’re stuck standing at the copier.