So how did you do with your 2017 resolutions? Did you make it to February?
If the economics of gym memberships are to be trusted, the answer for many of you is.. .probably not. As a New York Times column pointed out, 4 out of 5 people who made resolutions on December 31st will have broken them before the end of January. Why? Because we tend to set ourselves all-or-nothing goals that we can't possibly keep and, frankly, don't expect ourselves to keep.
How many of you were the proud recipients of wearable devices for Christmas? And so, armed with a new found ability to monitor energy expended, calories burned and steps climbed, did you vow to 'get fit' in 2017?
While I think these devices serve a purpose and can be useful in terms of an overall approach to fitness, I think there's a much simpler solution to driving a better health outcome for life, rather than for January. The answer? Stop sitting down so much. That's right, it's that simple! Stop sitting down quite so much and commit to being more mobile in 2017. And guess what, it's a resolution you can keep for life, too!
It's an obvious point but one that few are heeding. Don't believe me? Well, when the world's eminent physicist, Stephen Hawking, decides to advise us to be more active, maybe we should start listening. His speech at the end of last year about the future of the human race was immensely thought provoking but his comment that "for what it's worth, how being sedentary has been a major health problem is beyond my understanding" really resonated with me.
While moderate to vigorous activity is important and necessary, it doesn't, however, offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Indeed, explains Genevieve Healy, PhD "We've become so sedentary, that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting." But if, like the majority of the nation, you have an office-based job, it's not an easy issue to address!
So, what's the answer?
Adopting a "movement mindset" throughout the day, rather than short bursts of vigorous activity, can have significant positive impact on your health. You don't have to interrupt your work day to exercise, only interrupt sedentary time with low-intensity movement, like standing up more. Intense workouts can happen outside of the workday or on weekends. Here are some simple, yet sustainable tips for adopting a 'movement mindset' in 2017 and beyond:
- Walk more at work: try parking your car further away from the office, take the stairs rather than the lift, take the long route to the bathroom
- Keep movement going throughout the day by rotating postures at the office and sit-stand desks.
- Try a sit-stand desk! The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy recognising potential risks of prolonged sitting and encourage making alternatives to sitting available, such as standing work stations or adjustable desks. Standing is like walking: It increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow and ramps up metabolism.
- While computing, set a timer for every 30-45 minutes to remind you to stand up and stretch. Use this time to clear your work area
- Stand up to make phone calls. This can often result in a better outcome on the call as standing can lead to better decision making in this authoritative stance!
- Avoid sitting on long commutes - try standing on the bus or train
- Don't send email to someone sitting near you; go over and talk to them!
- Stand or exercise while you watch TV, or at least walk around during the commercial breaks
To conclude, do feel free to enjoy the latest fitness gadgets you may have received at Christmas. While pricey, they'll work well and will help you monitor your fitness activity. But more importantly, just make a simple pledge to yourself, (and one that will cost you absolutely nothing), to sit down less in 2017. Trust me, your back, your overall health, and even your doctor, will thank you. Here's to a less sedentary 2017!