If you are worried that spending hours each week sitting in your car commuting to and from a seated desk job may be affecting your health, two experts from Advocate Health Care have some helpful tips to get you moving.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or a combination of the two. That equates to about 30 minutes of exercise five days a week for overall cardiovascular health. To lower the risk of heart attack or stroke for those with higher risk factors, the AHA recommends bumping that time up to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity three-four times per week.
The AHA also recommends that muscle-strengthening activity be incorporated at least two days per week.
“Too much sitting and inactivity, especially if combined with a poor diet, can lead to obesity, which is the catalyst for increasing your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke,” says Dr. Marc Silver, a cardiologist with the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center.
“Physical activity doesn’t have to be done in a gym–it’s anything you do throughout the day that gets you out of your chair, moving and burning calories,” says Brandon Nemeth, a fitness specialist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
So what can you do to get moving?
Nemeth says you don’t have to do all 30-40 minutes at the same time. “You can get stronger and burn more calories by making smarter choices throughout the day.”
He recommends that you break up the amount of sitting you do each day and try to avoid long stretches of non-physical activity.
He also offers these tips for staying active throughout the workday:
- Park your car as far away from your office as possible and enjoy getting some fresh air and exercise before and after work.
- If possible, walk or ride your bike to work.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk to the furthest restroom from your office.
- Instead of handling everything over email or the phone, make the time to walk to a colleague’s office for a face-to-face meeting.
- Even if you bring your lunch, leave your desk and find a place to enjoy it.
- Take a 15-20 minute walk after lunch to clear your head and get some exercise.
- If you start to feel sluggish, do some calisthenic exercises, such as jumping jacks, crunches, lunges or pushups at your desk. “This is easier if you have the privacy of an office, but if you don’t, encourage some co-workers to join you.”
- Make time to stretch. “Too much time behind a computer can make your neck, shoulders, wrists and other areas sore and tight. Periodically stretching can help relive stiffness.”
- Utilize an app. “There are some great fitness apps out there that can suggest workouts and stretches depending on the amount of time and space you have.”
“Make it a habit to look at your step counter on your phone or wrist early in the day to give you a heads-up to pump up your daily activity,” Dr. Silver adds.