Integrate Physical Activity into Your Daily Life
HEALTH MATTERS: Integrate Physical Activity into Your Daily Life
by Needham Public Health Department
Think you’re healthy if you head to the gym after a day of sitting at work? Think again.
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people who spend a lot of time sitting may die earlier. The study tracked nearly 222,500 Australian adults for about three years. Compared with those who spent less than 4 hours a day sitting, people who sat for at least eight hours day were 15% more likely to die. The risk was 40% higher for people who sat for 11 or more hours a day. Another recent article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that every hour a person sits watching TV takes 22 minutes off of his or her life.
According to the World Health Organization, “Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.”
Inspired by this evidence, more people are considering ways to integrate exercise into their daily lives. According to David R. Brown, Ph.D., a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the CDC, “Doing regular daily physical activity does not have to include a structured program of traditional or vigorous exercise such as ‘working out’ or jogging…. It is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines and chores. It is a personal choice to be more active each day.”
Motivated by the idea that small changes can produce big results, there is a new trend in workplaces to reduce sedentary behaviors. A high profile approach is treadmill desk. While expensive and hard to fit in smaller work spaces, many people appreciate the chance to move while accomplishing their work. Some find that using a treadmill while computing and talking on the phone increases their productivity. Other office-workers have taken on lower-tech efforts including “standing desks” that elevate their work spaces, walking meetings and even just standing up during phone calls.
A related idea is taking regularly scheduled breaks for exercise. Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was inspired to break up her work day sitting time. Already using planks – a challenging core exercise in which the body is held in a pushup position – as part of her exercise routine, she and a colleague developed a routine to do one plank each hour during the workday, and shared this on Twitter under “Plank-an-hour.” She says this is part of a new trend that integrates technology and fitness. “Other hourly health challenges have been popping up on Twitter too—squats, pushups, lunges, you name it. These are quick, easy, no equipment necessary exercises that we all wish we did more of but have trouble fitting into our day. The hourly challenge forces you to pause during a busy day for 1 minute or less and do something active.”
One local Needham company is addressing the issue in a different way. Formerly known as Stokke, which was founded in 1932, Varier Furniture is recognized as a pioneer in developing ergonomic seating. President and CEO Edward Miano, says, “With the recent attention on the dangers of sitting, there has been a rush for people to start standing at work via adjustable height desks. But standing unsupported for prolonged periods has its own problems.” He continues, “The optional position for someone working 8 hours a day at a desk is to vary their position from low to high. Not just sitting or standing, but standing supported or ‘perching.’ The key factor is to move and vary your position.”
Given all of the various ways to integrate physical activity into daily life, what can you start today?