Most of us could stand to be in better shape. Especially since so many of us spend so much time sitting down. But it seems as if there's always something in the way. We think we need to join a gym, or find special equipment, or clothes, or a trainer. And of course, we also think it's hard to find the time.
But it doesn't have to be like this. If you can grab 60 seconds, you can be on your way to better health. And if you're one of those people who spend most of your day sitting down, we really do need to talk. Because, as it turns out, even a few minutes of daily exercise could help keep your job from hurting you.
Too much "sitting down" time can make you sick
Most workers spend at least 3 hours a day sitting at their job, and many people spend much more time than that.
And now, a review in the October 2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine says it looks as if too much sitting really does cause health problems. The review, which covered 43 different health studies gathered in 2009, lists health problems like diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. "Cardiovascular disease" is another term for heart and blood-circulation problems like heart attacks, blood clots, and high blood pressure. Sitting too much can also cause neck pain, headaches, and back pain, plus other issues.
So what's the link between too much sitting down on the job and all these health problems? One could be high Body Mass Index (BMI), which is how much fat our bodies have, compared to our overall weight. A high Body Mass Index comes from weight gain or too little exercise - just like heart and other health issues. Another link is poor circulation. In other words, if our blood isn't moving around enough to carry the oxygen our bodies need, things stop working.
But even a little exercise can go a long way. Many experts now say just 30 minutes of daily walking can keep us from gaining weight.
Better yet, as we'll cover later in this article, 60-second "bursts" of working out add up to better cardiac and fat-burning fitness. That's just one minute an hour.
Just think. Spend one minute an hour, and you could knock off a fourth of your daily exercise total in an eight-hour work day!
So let's start getting healthier and stronger right now, one minute at a time. And of course, if you have any health problems that might hurt you, see your doctor first. Remember - this is all about getting better!
First, some general tips
The Mayo Clinic offers some simple ways to make exercise part of your day. A few ideas from their list:
Change your desk chair for a fitness ball. These large "bouncy balls" make good seats. Plus, sitting on one builds both your balance and your "core" - the muscles in your stomach, thighs, and lower back.
Look for chances to stand up. When you're on the phone, eating lunch, or waiting for a web page to load, stand up. Walk a few steps. And when you need to talk to people you work with, why not walk to their desks instead of calling or e-mailing?
Make the most of your trips to and from work. Park farther away. Walk or ride a bike to work. If you take the bus, get off a few blocks early. Use the stairs whenever you can.
Work out in your work area. Store fitness bands or small hand weights in your desk. Then use them to do arm curls or stretches between tasks.
All these things don't take much time or trouble on their own, but together they can mean big steps toward healthier living.
"Fitness minutes" to get your heart rate up
And now for the "fitness minutes" we promised. Here are some one-minute exercises from WebMD.com and Kelli Calabrese, exercise physiologist from the American Council on Exercise.
Calabrese says a 60-second burst of exercise can get your heart beating in the "cardio zone." Over time, this makes your heart stronger and healthier. So of course, the more 60-second bursts you can work in, the better.
One-minute cardio exercises
A minute's worth of jumping jacks. Just check the clock, and for 60 seconds, go for it! Do jumping jacks for all you're worth.
If you need to work up to this, that's okay. Here's an easy way:
- Stand up.
- Raise your right arm while you tap your left toe on the floor.
- Then raise your left arm while you tap your right toe on the floor.
- Repeat, switching back and forth between your left and right arms and feet, for one minute.
- March or run in place for 60 seconds. Start out by marching - be sure to lift those knees! And then, when marching gets easy, try running in place for 60 seconds.
- Chair dance. While sitting in a chair, pump both your arms over your head for 30 seconds. Then quickly tap your feet on the floor as if you're doing a football running drill for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3 - 5 times.
- Shadow box: If you can find an empty office or conference room, "shadow-box" with an invisible partner for a minute or two. This will also help you let go of some stress. Tip: it's probably NOT a good idea to mutter a co-worker's name while doing this exercise!
- Walk it off. Get up and walk as fast as you can for 60 seconds at a time, even if it's just around your office or in the hall outside.
One-minute strength and stretching exercises
These are good ways to build strength, get your blood moving, and get rid of stress.
- Leg strengthener. Sitting in your chair, first lift one leg off the seat. Next, hold it out straight for two seconds. Then, lower your foot to just above the floor and hold for several seconds. Switch legs, and do each leg 15 times.
- Chest and shoulders. Put both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower yourself back down - but don't sit yet! Hold yourself just above the seat for a few seconds. Do this 15 times.
- Desk push-ups. First, make sure your desk is solid enough. Then, stand up and put your hands on the desk. Walk backward, and do push-ups against the desk. Repeat 15 times.
- Reach for the sky. Sit tall in your chair. First, stretch both arms over your head and reach up. After 10 seconds, extend the right hand higher, then the left.
- Neck stretch. Let your head gently roll over so your right ear almost touches your right shoulder. Using your hand, softly press your head a little lower. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax, and then repeat on the other side.
- Yoga stress relief. Sit facing forward, then turn your head to the left and your torso to the right, and hold a few seconds. Repeat 15 times, changing sides.
- Shoulder stretch. Sit up straight, and try to touch your shoulder blades together. Hold, and then relax.
Lower back & leg stretch.
- Push your chair away from your desk and put your right heel up on the desk.
- Sit up straight, and bend forward just until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg.
- Flex your foot a few seconds, and then point your toes.
- Bend forward a little farther, flex your foot again, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
WebMD also offers a helpful video of some office exercises you can do in five minutes. It's well worth your time. In fact, anything that can get us off our chairs and moving is worth our time. So why not take a minute for better health right now? In just 60 seconds at a time, you can add years to your life.
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