Basic tips to combat a sedentary lifestyle at work

Integrating movement intervals of three minutes per hour into a workday can help people who do not exercise regularly

The more years go by, the more likely we are to fall into a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, an estimated 67% of older adults sit more than eight hours a day, and only 28% to 34% of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active, according to the Department of Health and United States Human Services.

Evelyn O’Neill, director of outpatient exercise programs at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, witnesses the consequences of sitting too long. “Sitting is the new smoking habit in terms of health risks,” she told Harvard Health Publishing. “Lack of movement is perhaps more to blame than anything else for a host of health problems.”

A sedentary life can affect your health in ways you may not be aware of. For example, prolonged sitting can increase the chances of developing venous thrombosis (life-threatening blood clots that form in the deep veins of the legs), according to a study of more than 15,000 people. One study showed that people who watched television the most had a 70% higher risk of venous thrombosis compared to those who never or rarely watched television. A similar situation of sedentary lifestyle is reflected in those who spend long hours sitting down working.

What would happen if, throughout an eight-hour day, we got up and moved for three minutes every hour? That equates to 24 minutes of daily exercise. If we add another 10 minutes of walking or climbing stairs before or after work, that would be 34 minutes per day, or 170 minutes per five-day work week. That far exceeds the weekly threshold of 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), without ever stepping foot in a gym. 1. Stand up, sit down, repeat

It is important to get up from the chair at least once an hour. The easiest way to get moving is to turn getting up from your chair and back into an exercise.

Trainers and physical trainers call it the box squat. Standing in front of the chair, they advise sitting down slowly, making contact with the seat without putting all your weight on it. Then push through your feet, legs, and hips to return to a standing position. Repeat this movement, at the rhythm of each one, for three minutes every hour. 2. Hand movements to relieve tension

Have you ever thought that the tension in your hands from so much typing could be contributing to the tension in your shoulders? Muscles work in a chain, so tension can move up and down the body. When we are tense or immobilized in one area, other muscles have to compensate to help us move. Those muscles become overloaded and tense, leading to a chain reaction of muscular compensation and chronic tension.

To perform hand exercises, we must focus on one hand at a time. Support the elbow of the hand that we are exercising on the desk to stabilize it. Clench your fist and then open your hand and spread your fingers as far apart as possible. Repeat five times. Then make a fist and slowly rotate your wrist in one direction five times.

Repeat in the opposite direction. Open your hand and, with the opposite hand, gently press your fingers back to stretch the inside of your wrist and hand. Hold the position for three breaths. Repeat pressing the hand forward to stretch the back of the hand and the wrist. 3. And feet

The same type of muscular chain reaction of tension can occur with your feet. Spending just a few minutes a day actively moving your feet and ankles can have a dramatic impact on how your whole body feels. For this, we will need to take off our shoes and, if possible, our socks.

Then, cross one leg over the other, concentrating on the top foot. Point your toes forward and down, like a ballerina, and then flex your foot back to point your toes up, spreading them as wide as possible. Repeat 10 times. Then slowly rotate your ankle in one direction 10 times. Repeat in the opposite direction. Finally, do the exercises with the other foot.