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Make movement a part of your daily life

Exercise and Fitness | July 12, 2021
A man uses a standing desk for computer work
Standing, walking and other simple movements throughout the day will help improve your health.

You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” This phrase was coined by James Levine, MD, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. He based his commentary on research indicating that sitting for long periods is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, and anxiety. It is also one of the main reasons that older people fall.  

Sitting all day, skipping lunches, and rarely getting up for any other breaks will take its toll, especially on your heart. According to the American Heart Association, more than 25% of American adults sit for more than eight hours every day. This slows down blood flow, your ability to process fats (by up to 90%) and can lead to insulin resistance.  

“It cannot be emphasized enough; movement throughout the day is critical to our physical and mental health,” said Mandy Baucum, yoga and fitness instructor in the Oregon Heart and Vascular Institute gym at RiverBend in Springfield, Oregon.  

“Our bodies were meant to move," she noted. "Everything atrophies when movement declines. Blood flow, digestion, and range of motion, to name a few. I often tell my students ‘Use it or lose it,’ because it’s true! Especially the older population I work with. For example, if you don’t want to lose your ability to get up and down off the floor, then keep doing it!”

Work Movement into Your Day 

So how do you work more movement into your day? For starters, it may make sense to set a timer. You can even download smartphone apps that remind you to get up and move. It is recommended that you move every 30-60 minutes. 

“It cannot be emphasized enough; movement throughout the day is critical to our physical and mental health.” 

You might also want to invest in a dynamic workstation. A standing desk, a treadmill desk, or an exercise ball chair are all beneficial. Some people swear by rebounders (mini-trampolines) for low-impact stationary movement.

Research indicates increased productivity, energy, and creativity for those who use a standing desk. If you are just getting started, it is recommended that you gradually extend your period of standing each day. 

Commit to a Workout Routine 

Perhaps the most obvious way to incorporate movement into your day is committing to a workout routine. If you are tired of the treadmill, why not try something new like yoga, tai chi, boxing, or even ballet? Learn how tai chi can increase your energy, balance, and joint function. 

Yoga is an excellent way to add movement to your daily routine. Many yoga classes are also offered online if you are short on time or more comfortable taking a class at home.  

In addition to improving strength, balance, and flexibility, yoga helps with back pain relief, eases arthritis symptoms, and fosters heart health. Research also shows it is one of the best lifestyle interventions to improve mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Learn the signs that indicate you may need help with anxiety and depression.  

“The benefits of yoga go way beyond the mat,” said Mandy. “Slow yoga nourishes the nervous system, which means it reduces stress and improves the brain-body connection. This leads to positive changes in many areas of life, such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in addition to fostering a more positive relationship with food.” 

Sneak In Extra Steps 

The simplest way to add more movement to your day is to increase the time you spend walking. Perhaps even adding it to the end of your workout routine.  

There are, of course, many ways to sneak in those extra steps.

For example, when parking your car, park far from the door, walk when you are chatting on the phone, or climb a few flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator. If or when you return to working in an office, you might try “walking meetings” with one or two colleagues instead of sitting in a conference room.  

Some routine tasks can also increase your walking steps, such as playing outside with your kids or pets, cleaning the house, or working in the garden.  

There are so many options for increasing movement throughout your day, it shouldn’t be hard to find a few that fit your lifestyle. If getting started seems overwhelming, pick one small change to master first and then add others as you grow more comfortable.

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