By now, you've heard about the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. The question is, how do you avoid them when your job and lifestyle require a substantial amount of time sitting? Are there really exercises to do at your desk that will make a difference?
If you're racking your brain to find a solution, you're not alone. A study conducted by the Physical Activity Council found that 81.6 million Americans were living a sedentary lifestyle in 2015. That represents 27.7 percent of the U.S. population, and the figure has hovered around that mark since 2010.
But the need for change is real, as the risks can be considerable. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with many health conditions: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even anxiety and depression. It can also contribute to osteoporosis.
What do you do if you work in an office and find it difficult to get enough physical activity during the day? Fortunately, there are appropriate exercises to do at your desk that can help raise your heart rate and burn calories throughout the workday. You don't have to reserve exercise solely for the gym -- here are six great moves you can try out right now.
While seated, stick your leg straight out and squeeze your thigh, slowly lifting the leg up and down in a controlled manner for 15 to 20 repetitions. Next, lift up your leg, and perform 15 to 20 quick pulses, or small movements. Finally, lift and hold your leg up for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Stand in front of your chair. Bend your knees as you exhale, and lower yourself down toward the chair, briefly touching the edge of the seat before you stand back up. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
Before you start, make sure your desk won't move and is strong enough to support your body weight. Stand a few feet away from your desk with your feet together. Put your palms shoulder-length apart on the edge of the desk. Lower your chest toward the desk, and push back up. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps.
Chair or Desk Dips
Facing away from your desk or chair, place your hands shoulder-width apart with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your arms, and lift yourself up and down. Repeat for 10 reps.
Stand in front of your desk or chair (make sure it doesn't roll!), and hold on to it for balance. Raise your heels off of the floor as high as you can, and slowly lower them. Repeat for 20 reps.
Hold a ream of paper or a heavy book at shoulder height -- preferably something that weighs a couple of pounds -- and raise it all the way over your head. Repeat for 10 reps.
In addition to exercises to do at your desk, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator to get in some extra movement during the day -- take them two at a time to make things a little harder. You can also park farther away from the entrance, take a five-minute walk every hour, or go for a longer walk during your lunch break. There are also simple stretches you can do anywhere, such as wrist and hand stretches, neck rotations, and shoulder shrugs.
If you want to get a little more physical, use full water bottles as weights and do front raises or bicep curls. You don't have to get sweaty for the workout to be effective, and you can increase the number of reps you do as you get more comfortable and stronger.
The deskbound hours of the workday are a necessary part of life for many of us, but if you find ways to incorporate movement throughout your day, you can help stave off the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.