By now, most of us understand that sitting all day is bad. Or, if this is news to you, take a look at this 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that correlates long uninterrupted periods of sitting with increased likelihood of death (Or this study in the European Heart Journal linking sitting to higher blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Or this study asserting that interrupting sitting time with bouts of light or moderate walking lowers glucose and insulin levels.) Whether it causes tight muscles or heart problems, it’s clear that we’re generally worse off after spending our days at the desk or on the computer.
Now, in all fairness, there are also studies suggesting standing creates its own health problems. After all, almost anything in extreme excess is going to be harmful.But if we can, let’s recognize that the sedentary lifestyles many of us are forced into due to our work, needs to be shaken up to avoid potential health problems. This is truer than ever at this moment in history, where an unprecedented number of us are working from home, and in less than ideal conditions, due to the pandemic. So what can we do?
Fortunately, the answer is simple: We need to move. Many health experts recommend getting up at least once every 20-30 minutes. Even if it’s just for a walk around the house or office, frequently interrupting long seated periods has had a scientifically demonstrated effect on overall health.
Below, I’ll discuss some of my favorite solutions for finding movement in your day, including a multi-week approach.
One easy way I’ve found to motivate myself to move while working is by putting a container of carrots (or another healthy, bite-sized snack) in the office fridge, and then make myself get up and walk across the office to grab individual bites throughout the day.
If you have a somewhat private space in your office (or you’re working from home), then the possibilities expand further. In this case, you may want to escape every 30-60 minutes for a few Sun Salutations. Finding active movement like sun salutations not only improves health but it will give you an energy-boost during your day.
Another favorite solution of mine has been choosing a movement focus area in the body for the month (ie.hips or shoulders). Once I’ve picked the area, then I will build up hen building a series of poses to open or strengthen that area that I can do intermittently throughout the day to get away from the computer. If this is something you’re interested in doing, then below is a weekly sequence of postures you might consider using.
Hip-Focused Weekly Movements:
A few months ago I started getting a sharp pain in my hip when standing up. This was the result of my hip flexors tightening after being flexed in a 90-degree angle for hours and hours on end. So I choose this quick series of postures to stretch myself back out, with slightly different movements each week. Since these stretches only take 10-15 minutes at a time, they can be done multiple times throughout the day and make for the perfect break from the computer.
Week 1 (2 - 3 times per day):
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Find a lunge with your hands on your front knee and your back knee on the ground. Sit the hips down and forward as you relax into the posture. Pull the navel in to avoid arching into the lower back. Hold 30 second holds x 3 reps
Supine knee to opposite shoulder
Lay on your back and pull one knee up toward chest, and then across the body towards the opposite shoulder. Hold 30 second holds x 3 reps
Reclined pigeon (Supta Kapotasana)
Lay on the back and cross one ankle over the opposite thigh. Reach around the shin of the grounded leg and pull the legs in towards the chest. Work to ground the sacrum and relax the upper body down towards the mat. Hold 30 second holds x 3 reps
Week 2 (2-3 times per day):
· Repeat same postures above
· Add: TFL Stretch x 1 minute each side
From your reclined pigeon release the shin, and allow the legs to fall towards the side of your grounded leg. Then, reach the knee of the crossed leg towards the opposite foot to stretch TFL muscle.
Week 3 (1-2 times per day):
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) variation x 30 second holds x 3 reps
Reclined pigeon (Supta Kapotasana) x 30 second holds x 3 reps
TFL Stretch x 1 minute each side
add: Yogic Squat (Malasana)
Begin standing with the feet hip width apart. Squat down so the seat hovers off the floor and shine the chest forward. Lengthen the spine and work to take any curve out of the upper back. Hands can come to prayer (Anjali Mudra) in front of the chest so that the elbows gently push the knees apart. x 2 minutes
Week 4 (1-2 times per day):
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) variation x 30 second holds x 3 reps
Yogic Squat (Malasana) x 2 minutes
Bound Angle Pose A Position (Baddha Konasana A) x 1 minute
Come to seated and bend the legs to bring the soles of the feet together in front of you. Lengthen the spine as you reach up through the crown of the head. Fold forward while maintaining length in the spine, without rounding into the back.
Bound Angle Pose B Position (Baddha Konasana B) x 1 minute
Maintain the previous position, but now allow yourself to round into the back and reach the nose towards the foot.
You can take these hip stretches and do them yourself, or choose a different focus-area and create your own mini-sequence (or take a look at some of our mini-flows!). Feel free to tailor it to your level of fitness and don’t be afraid to modify as needed.
The point here is that a full 60-minute yoga class at the start or end of the day doesn’t need to be the only movement you get. Short 10-minute breaks, when taken consistently can also make a huge difference! For me, adding consistent stretching breaks resolved my hip pain in a month and it hasn’t returned since.
Ultimately, the specific way we each find to add movement into our regular day will be different. All that’s important is that you find something that is maintainable and enjoyable to you. Sometimes, it can help to be Unambitious. Start with something easy, so that you know you’ll do it consistently. Maybe it’s just an extra lap of the house or office as you get up to get yourself a glass of water. Once that becomes a common practice, build up from there.
What do you do to get yourself up and moving during the day? Share your practices with us in the comments below!