Most of our waking hours are spent sitting. We sit in front of a steering wheel on our way to work. We sit at a desk for hours to earn a livable wage. We sit on a couch in the evening to relax and unwind. And we do this every single day.
Leading this kind of sedentary lifestyle has serious repercussions on our physical health and our mental well-being. Recent studies indicate that people who sit for prolonged periods of time have a significantly higher mortality rate due to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and depression.
The situation sounds bleak, but there is a silver lining to the matter. If sitting is a disease, we already know of a cure – all you have to do is stand up, and start moving about. Physical activity greatly reduces the risks associated with sitting, in addition to providing a boost to our overall health.
While the solution may be simple, changing our daily habits is certainly not. It takes conscious effort to keep moving when presented with an opportunity to sit. So, in order to help you to break out of your sedentary habits, we present to you a list of 10 healthy alternatives to sitting.
Start Exercising with a Group
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks that physical activity is not good for your health. It makes good intuitive sense – living beings are active by nature, so the more you move, the better off you will be. Motivating yourself to move is another matter however, which is why people came up with group exercising. Hanging out around people that lead active lives is guaranteed to motivate you to do the same thing. Try joining a local gym, sports club, or yoga class, and start working out.
Going on a walk is the simplest way to avoid sitting all the time. Research shows that taking a 30-min walk each day reduces the risk of many ailments associated with a sedentary lifestyle. What is great about walking is that you can do it practically anywhere. Use your break at work to take a quick lap around the building, pace around your home while trying to come up with a grocery list, take an evening walk around your block, or do all of the above.
Skip the Elevator
Walking is good, but climbing is even better. If you live and/or work in a multi-story building, give the elevator a pass and start using the stairs. Stairs will add some challenge to your walking routine, which you might perceive as a downside at first, but after only a couple of days, you will be pacing up and down without giving it a second thought. Climbing the stairs is also a great way to burn excess calories, and it will strengthen your bones, joints, and muscles in the process as well.
If your job is preventing you from moving away from your post, try at least to stand up every once in a while. Most people have trouble remembering to do this at first, so it can be helpful to set a reminder for yourself. Set your phone alarm to beep every 20 minutes to half an hour, and after a while, you will develop a habit to do it on your own. Many household activities such as watching TV, playing games, or reading can be performed while standing as well, so make It point to do so.
Transform Your Workstation
If you are working in the IT sector, most of your work is done while sitting. If you are afraid that sitting up periodically will break your workflow, you should consider getting a standing desk. Working from a standing workstation will improve your posture, reduce back pain, and may even be more enjoyable than sitting on a chair. Standing while you work also makes it easier to move your body about, which will confer additional health benefits.
Finish Your Chores Before They Pile Up
The more you let chores pile up, the longer it will take to finish them. And the longer it takes, the more likely you are to sit down. So instead of doing all your chores at once, try doing them one at a time as soon as possible. That way you will always have an excuse to get up and do something, which will reduce the time you spend sitting. Also, try to stand while doing chores instead of sitting where applicable.
Stretch Your Body
Stretching is one of the basic contributing factors to physical fitness. It is an activity that many animals perform instinctively to increase flexibility and range of motion. You can stretch from practically any position, including sitting. You can stretch while watching TV or listening to music to keep active, or make dedicated stretching breaks a couple of times per day. Just make sure you are doing stretching exercises properly.
Get an Active Hobby
The most fun way to introduce more movement and activity into your life is to make a hobby out of it. That way you will create a psychological association between movement and enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be a physically-intensive hobby either. Hobbies such as gardening, painting, playing music, and others involve movement without being strenuous. If none of these hobbies appeals to you, you can help your partner or friends accomplish theirs.
Stop Driving Everywhere
One of the major contributors to the sedentary lifestyle epidemic is the tendency to drive everywhere. This environmentally unsustainable to say the least, and it forces us to sit during activities that would otherwise require movement, such as commuting to work. So instead of taking the car everywhere, use a bike, a pair of inline skates, or even a skateboard when you need to move around town. You will reduce your impact on the environment and improve your physical and mental fitness at the same time.
Go on a Walking Holiday
Going on holiday usually involves a lot of sitting and laying around. This can help you cope with the stress of everyday life, but it won’t be doing much good for your body. So instead of sitting around a resort all day, consider going on a walking holiday. Walking tours such as the Camino de Santiago are great for people who want to keep in shape while doing activities such as sightseeing and partying. Going on a walking holiday also means that you will actually return home in a better condition than the one you left in.
The dynamics of modern life often force us to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. However, you can resist this tendency by conditioning yourself to constantly be on the move. This can be achieved one step at a time by introducing some of the aforementioned activities into your daily routine. And once you get used to living on the move, you will find it hard to go back to sitting around all day.
Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.