By now you’ve likely been clued in: sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your overall health — even if you exercise regularly.
But, for many, like the vast majority of people whose jobs require sitting at a desk for most of the day, getting around the whole “sitting” thing is hard.
“The latest research shows that sitting too much is more dangerous than smoking — and 30- to 60-minutes of exercise a day isn’t enough to counteract it,” explains Michele Stanten, a walking coach and ACE certified group fitness instructor. “In one study, researchers saw changes in arteries that may contribute to heart disease after just three hours of sitting—and that was in healthy 20-somethings.”
The good news that came out of this pretty shocking study, though, is that it doesn’t take much to counteract these negative effects.
“Just five minutes of movement every hour prevented it,” Stanten said.
In other words, you don’t have to walk a whole lot to protect your health. It’s simply a matter of getting up from your desk for short periods of time every so often throughout the day.
Of course, for some, even that may seem like a challenge, and maybe even more overwhelmingly, like a potential interruption to your work flow.
It definitely doesn’t have to be, though.
“Walking is one of the easiest ways to make a positive change and effectively improve your health,” Stanten said. “Studies have found that even two-minute walking breaks can improve the function of disease-fighting and metabolism-boosting genes. And as little as one minute of walking at a heart-pumping pace can help keep pounds off.”
Plus, she noted, walking has been shown to reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and diabetes and can lower blood pressure and improve your mood, boost your creativity, and even increase productivity.
Ready to reap some of these pretty amazing benefits?
Below Stanten shares her top six tips for easily incorporating more walking in your day-to-day routine.
1. Keep sneakers in your car. “That way you’re prepared to take a walk anytime you have a few extra minutes,” Stanten said. “Early to a doctor’s appointment? Stroll around the block.”
2. Walk, don’t wait. “Instead of sitting on the bleachers while your kid is at soccer practice or in the waiting room during dance class, take a walk,” Stanten suggests.
3. Invite friends for walks instead of coffee or lunch. “You’ll burn calories instead of consuming them.”
4. Have multiple routes. “Many walkers always walk from the same location. Expand your options by walking from any location that you frequent,” Stanten explained. “Start a walk from home, work, your kids’ schools, the grocery store, or a friend or family member’s home. Anywhere you find yourself at least once a week is a possible starting point. The more options you have the more likely you are to walk.”
5. Park once. “The norm in many suburban shopping centers is to park by one store, go in and shop, then drive to the next one,” Stanten explained. “Instead, park at a central location and walk to all of the stores, even if you have to return to the car in between to drop off packages—bonus steps!”
6. Get an activity monitor. “From simple pedometers to FitBits, these wearable activity tracking devices can motivate you to move more,” she said. “See how much you normally walk, and then set incremental goals to increase the number of steps you take or the number of calories you burn each day. The benefits will multiply as the numbers do.”