Building exercise into your day
Dr. Susan Locke writes that we were made to move, not to sit in a chair all day . . .
The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. For many of us with long work days, this is a daunting recommendation. It’s great if you can hit the gym before work, but what if you can’t? And even if you did hit the gym, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to move the rest of the day.
Are there ways to exercise while at work? The benefits of exercise are cumulative, so any amount of exercise can help. To encourage exercise in the workplace, some companies build gyms onsite, invite fitness instructors to hold classes for their employees and promote lunchtime walking groups. Even if these opportunities are not available, you can improve your fitness while at work.
Make a point to incorporate stretching, muscle strengthening and even short bursts of aerobic exercise in your workday. According to the American Council on Exercise, even 60-second bursts of aerobic exertion can be considered “cardio” if you can get in your target heart rate zone. The simplest way to calculate your target heart rate range is:
(220 – age) x .60 = lower end of target heart rate range
(220 – age) x .80 = upper end of target heart rate range
• Do jumping jacks for one minute.
• Run in place for one minute.
• While seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds and then rapidly tap your feet on the floor for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
• Do lunges in your office or in a vacant room.
• Take the stairs; try two at a time, 5-7 times a day.
• Do squats while waiting for your computer to load a page or to print.
• Extend your leg while sitting in your chair, hold for two seconds. Then lower your foot stopping short of the floor and hold for several seconds. Alternate legs and repeat 15 times on each side.
• Place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your buttocks off the chair. Lower yourself back down stopping short of the seat and hold for several seconds. Repeat 15 times.
• Try pushups from your desk or the floor. Repeat 15 times.
• Sit tall in your chair and stretch both your arms over your head and reach high; then extend the right hand higher and then the left.
• Roll your head so that the right ear nearly touches the right shoulder. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to lower your head further. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
• Sit up straight and try to touch your shoulder blades together. Hold and then relax.
• Keep some resistance bands and small hand weights at your desk.
• Consider trading in your desk chair for a fitness or stability ball. It will help your balance and tone your core muscles.
• Park at the far end of the parking lot.
• If possible, walk down the hall to talk to your co-workers, rather than emailing or speaking on the phone.
The important thing is to build movement into your day. The American Heart Association recommends that people walk 10,000 steps per day, but the majority of Americans only walk about half that much. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time can lead to slower metabolisms, an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Keep moving!
Susan Locke, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s Medical Director.
Healthnetwork is a non-profit whose mission is to improve medicine for all by connecting CEOs with leading hospitals and their doctors to provide the best access to world-class care and increase philanthropic funding for medical research. One Call Starts It All: 866-968-2467 or 440-893-0830. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org