If you’re like us, you do your best to stay active. You hit up the tennis courts in the morning, swim a few laps after work, or lace up your running shoes on the weekends. But even regular daily exercise doesn’t exempt you from what scientists now call active couch potato syndrome.
Active couch potatoes, by definition, interrupt a mostly sedentary lifestyle with bursts of intense physical activity. As fitness guru Mark Sisson notes, “Even if you’re a devoted gym rat, those few hours a week when you’re pushing weight around isn’t enough to combat a lifestyle of commuting, office work, and digital entertainment leisure time.”
Millions of people around the world have jobs and commutes that require them to sit for long periods every single day. And all of this sedentary time is killing us, no matter how active we are in our off time. Even devoted workout enthusiasts are prone to diseases and conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and depression when they spend most of their day sitting.
So how do you combat the consequences of your daily schedule? We have a few ideas on how to stay active, even when it’s your job to sit still.
Rethink your commute
According to a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, the average commute is 26.9 minutes. That means the average person will spend over a week—7.4 days—just sitting in traffic each year.
Alternatives like biking and walking are not only better for your body; they’re better for the environment and can save you money. Not sure you can bike to your workplace? Try splitting the difference between biking and busing. Or invest in an electric bike which can do the heavy lifting on long or particularly strenuous commutes. You might have to get creative, but rethinking your commute could give you back an entire week of wasted time.
Stand up regularly
Employers are starting to recognize the negative impact of prolonged sitting on their employees’ health. If you have a sit-stand workstation, try to stand for at least 15 minutes every hour. If you don’t have that option, schedule brief hourly breaks for yourself. Simple apps like Stand Up! will remind you to stand up at regular intervals throughout the day. Grab a cup of coffee or refill your water bottle. Walk up and down the stairs a few times. These mini-breaks help you release tension, get your blood pumping, and increase your daily step count.
If you work somewhere that’s open to the idea, suggest walking meetings instead of sitting in the conference room. Studies have shown that walking while talking makes us more creative and productive.
Get out of the office
We get it. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But studies have shown that even a 15-minute walk outside can reduce stress, boost energy, and combat some of the harmful effects of your desk job. Feeling adventurous? Leave your phone behind so you can truly unplug. This creates a tech-free oasis in the middle of your day to help you reset.
Try these small daily hacks
Take the stairs. Park your car as far away from the building as possible. If you need to get a message to a coworker, try walking to their office instead of shooting off a quick email. Even small changes to your daily routine can reduce the health risks associated with inactivity.
Micro-workouts have big impact
Want to take it one step further? There are body weight exercises you can do—yes, at your job—that have a cumulative effect throughout the day. Try to knock out three sets of squats, lunges, or push-ups during each workday. Don’t work somewhere that you can (or want to) get on the floor? Wall push-ups are an easy alternative.
By incorporating small, daily movement into your workday, you can break out of the active couch potato mold. How do you get in your daily movement while working?