The phrase "sitting pretty" is actually an oxymoron because you will soon discover that there is nothing pretty about sitting! Most of it is scary—so for those of us who do need to sit for work, we also must get up. Why? To be healthy enough to do that job in the first place...
I’m a work-at-home freelance writer—which means most of my time is spent slumped in a chair, tapping away till the kids come home. In between all that sitting, I keep darting up to complete my chores. Even so, over the years (I am in my 30s) my metabolism has slowed down. A lot of it is because of poor lifestyle choices of course, but a sedentary job can also be blamed for a bit. The thing is, the mind and body are connected. You cannot let one slow and expect the other to function at optimum. So during a long day of work—and it’s even longer when you are sedentary—you need to refresh both your brain and your body to keep your productivity and health at an all-time high.
Why Is Sitting Bad For Your Body & Brain?
Sitting for prolonged periods can turn everything topsy-turvy—which is why most experts will tell you to keep taking short breaks of exercising or moving. A 10-minute moving break for every one hour spent sitting is a good way to cross out all the negative effects that being sedentary brings to your body, some of which include:
- Sitting for even six hours a day shortens your life! This even if you do exercise for more than the recommended 2-3 hours per week. So yes, it sounds just about as bad as it really is.
- A drop in the metabolism—two hours of sitting minus a break can bring down the metabolism to almost 90%. This could be the reason why you are not losing weight.
- Do you feel stiff after a sitting episode? Do your legs feel a tad unresponsive? It’s because they are—since too much sitting can actually switch off the muscle activity in your lower limbs.
- The good cholesterol in your body drops down about 20% after two hours of continuous sitting. Plus, there are more chances of you getting heart disease. You increase your risk of just about everything—diabetes, hypertension, weight-related problems, deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) aka clots in your legs, back pain and problems, varicose veins, osteoporosis, and cancers of the lung, colon, or endometrium. The list is long and scary.
- If you thought sitting was only bad for your body, and not for the brain—wrong again. A UCLA study has shown that people who sit more, despite light or heavy exercise, have a higher risk for Alzheimer's and show more memory issues than people who have an active job. Plus, sitting too much has also shown to increase anxiety levels.
The end result is just this: you have to get moving. And if you think people might feel that you are shirking your work, or laugh at you for all those stretches and office asanas—well, you’d be healthy and alive. So let them laugh while you regain your health back.
5 Ways To Keep Moving At Work
When I say at work, I do not just mean this for people who go to an office desk on an everyday basis. All this holds true for any of us who have a home office. In fact, for the work-at-home, there aren't any dissing stares or judgments from colleagues to combat. But even for those of you who do have colleagues who snigger at your office yoga or roll their eyes at your luncheon workout—keep calm, and keep moving.
- Do not sit for more than an hour at a stretch. Work pressure may be immense but if you let it get to you and not move about; it may just end up killing you or making you very, very unhealthy. Walk, run, skip, stretch, do yoga—just move. Even if your boss is less than understanding, take bathroom breaks if you have to—but keep moving at any cost.
- If you have flexible timings or get 30 minutes or more off for lunch, have a walking lunch instead of a sitting one. Pack yourself things you can eat easily while you walk—warps, sandwiches, chimichangas, enchiladas, et al…
- If you are a work-at-home person, line up your chores in a way that keeps you moving after an hour. Set timers if you cannot remember to get up and gad about a bit. Put on a dishwasher load, clean something, fold the laundry, bake a cake, chop the veggies for dinner—just keep standing for 10-15 minutes for every one hour of sitting that you do.
- Go for a luncheon walk or a bike ride. Remember that no amount of exercise you get in the morning can combat all that sitting you do in the day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t exercise because not working out is worse! Keep surprising your body every now and then with a burst of movement to keep yourself physically fit and mentally agile.
- Finally, if you cannot get away from that chair, use it as a tool to get some desk yoga done. Try this 10-minute chair yoga to get in that much-needed exercise. Do it, and repeat as often as you and your body need an energizing break.
5 Ways To Keep Your Brain Active
When I sit for too long, working on something, I start to feel my anxiety levels rise. Every sound irritates me on an ever-increasing level and I start to feel restless and fidgety. This, in turn, takes my productivity on a nosedive. All this then affects my mood and makes me irritable, which increases my anxiousness further. You get the picture—it’s one crazy, cuckoo cycle. Warm hugs from the kids and the husband help but when I don’t have anyone around, this is what I do to get the old clunker working more and worrying less.
- Get Up For A Drink: Well, a drink of water—all hydration here. Dehydration can affect the cognitive part of your brain, which is what you need most while working. Getting up to have a drink of water gets me moving, and replenishes the brain much like a parched plant getting a rain shower.
- Get Up & Smell The Roses: Or lavender, or cinnamon, or coffee—again, any smell that can ignite the brain will help to get your focus back and calm you down. To get the most out of this, keep your aromatherapy apothecary a little out of the way so you need to move to get to the refreshing scent.
- Get Up & Meditate: You can see that “get up” is becoming the mantra of this article—and it is so because the only thing you can do to turn your body and brain strong enough to combat a sedentary job is to keep getting up. Instead of sitting in a cross-legged position and zoning into the inner recesses of your mind or soul, try doing your meditation in the tree pose or mountain pose. Any standing yoga pose that you are comfortable in is fine to meditate a little and calm down.
- Get Up & Have A Snack: Hunger can tend to bring down productivity so if you haven’t eaten for a while and need a healthy snack, eat something healthy standing up. Avoid sugar cravings and unhealthy amounts of sodium though and stick to healthy snacking options.
- Get Up & Lay Down: A 20-minute nap is thought to boost your brain power—but you need to time it down to a tee. Longer than 20 minutes will only make you groggy—but if you are feeling sleepy, it’s better to take a quick rest than keep blearily blinking at the screen without getting anything done!
As it is with anything new, your body might protest all the extra movement for a week or two, but soon you’ll settle into a rhythm. There’s a fine balance between having to sit for work and wanting to sit. Don’t let the first turn into the second as your reality. Keep moving—movement is life!