A lack of movement and a general increase in sitting has been thrown into sharp focus these last 11 months, with many of us realising just how much we used to move throughout our day-to-day pre-lockdown lives. Many of us are now aware of how little we are moving now we are not commuting to work, getting the children to school, dashing to the shops or even walking to the office kitchen down the hall and standing having a chat with our colleagues. For many of us, this has had a negative impact on our overall health and fitness.
The NHS has stated that prolonged periods of sitting can slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. This is because our heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively when we are standing. Our digestion and bowels function more efficiently and our overall energy levels and endurance improve. Standing and moving also helps maintain bone strength.
Prolonged sitting and lack of exercise will impact the strength of your back, buttocks and legs, as well as causing the hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with the hip joints and can often result in lower back pain. Ever struggled to straighten up after sitting for a long time? One of the reasons could be tight and shortened hip flexors.
And what of our mental health? A recent study conducted by the University of Tasmania, discovered that employees who sat for more than six hours per day, experienced increased rates of anxiety and depression, compared to colleagues who did not spend as much time in their seat. Movement and exercise however, can help reduce anxiety and depression and boost our overall mood and self-esteem. Jogging, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing and are all great ways to get moving, with the added bonus of getting out into natural daylight and enjoying that clear (almost) Spring air –and yes, dancing outside is absolutely permitted in these strange times, garden or no garden!
It is therefore important to decrease our sitting time as much as possible through the day to restrict the negative impact on our minds and bodies. Here are some ideas to help get you out of your seat:
- Many people are investing in standing desks but a laptop stand or some stacked books will allow you to stand while you work. For a bonus, draw your stomach in to engage your abdominals and help strengthen your core.
- Move around on phone calls, or if you’re on a video call, try to arrange your screen so you stand and take the opportunity to flex your feet, circle your ankles and do some bum kicks.
- Take regular breaks from your desk at least every hour and get moving. Just 30 seconds of squats and 30 seconds of arm circles will help to get your circulation revved up.
- Try some kitchen counter press ups. See how many press ups you can fit in while the kettle is boiling – (please ensure you take care to not slip as you do this). If this gets too easy, take it to the stairs if you’re able to and place your hands on the lowest steps you can manage and see how many press ups you can do. This can be a fun way to see yourself improving – getting progressively stronger as you move down the steps.
- Schedule in a proper lunch break, throw on some shoes, wrap up warm and get out for a walk. Allow your mind to wander, look around you and take in your environment. You will come back feeling more awake, refreshed and energised for the next part of your day.
And finally, about those hip flexors. If you struggle to straighten after standing up, try taking your hands above your head to stretch yourself back out. Progress this if you can by taking your arms back slightly further, creating a gentle backwards bend. Go carefully with this though, support your lower back with your hands until you’re confident you won’t hurt yourself.
Wishing you all the best for as healthy a lockdown as possible and I look forward to seeing you on the other side!