Did you know that diseases of inactivity (hypokinetic) are the main cause of death in the UK and many developed nations ? (World Health Organisation, 2003) Did you know that sitting for long periods encourages a round-shouldered (kyphotic) posture? Did you know that inactive people face a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity?
"Wow, you are so positive and encouraging, Marty, thanks!" you may exclaim. I don't mean to be negative, but I want to be factual. I also want to give you a compelling reason to move more. Yes, move more. As soon as you finish reading this article get up from your screen or put your phone in your pocket and go for a walk. Is a walk too much? At least get-up and go to the other room for a glass of water. Heck, if even that is too much at least stand-up and stretch your body... Just move!
"But why?" I hear you asking. I'd assume by now you've heard about all the benefits of being active. Still, here is a brief overview.
The majority of the tips I'm going to give you revolve around walking. Why? Because walking is what made us human. I bet you've seen the human evolution timeline...
Walking is THE human defining activity. Walking is an expression of our essential nature as human beings.
So, without further ado here are your 5 tips. Easy ways to move more daily that cost you no extra time.
1) Take the stairs - Whenever you have a choice always opt for the stairs.
Most people face the option of a staircase at least 4 times daily. Twice when leaving and coming back home and twice when arriving and leaving work.
Did you know that stair-climbing is classified as a vigorous activity? So you get even more bang for your time buck.
I can hear you say ... "But Marty, I live on the 11th floor how can I take the stairs?"
Well, one answer would be: just do it! You'd find out that it is not as difficult as it seems when you actually do it. A second answer is, don't make it an either or, find a balance. Take the lift halfway and walk the rest.
2) Take the longest route - counteract your habits and avoid the shortcuts.
If you already walk to work or wherever you go for at least 30 minutes daily, that is great. In that case, taking the longest route may be impossible or unnecessary. What I mean is, even if you take public transport, drive or ride to work, you have a favourite route from the station or where you park to your desk. Instead of taking it, take one that is longer even if it is 50 or 100 meters more it adds up over time.
When you are in your office or the place where you work continue applying this principle. We repeat things several times a day. What things? Going to the toilet, going to the water and coffee machines, going for food, add your own examples. Instead of going to and fro covering the shortest distance, cover the longest. If you work on a floor - imagine it as a circuit lap. Go via one side, and return via the other to complete a full lap. Not only your body will benefit from more movement, but you'll also experience the achievement reward of having completed one lap.
As I promised none of the tips take extra time, so here is how to compensate for the extra distance. Just pick up your pace. Stride instead of just walking. Besides, raising your pulse more, striding will make you feel better. Remember, we said how emotion is energy in motion?
So striding instead of walking is your body's way of telling your mind that you live with purpose and act with conviction.
Think of walking as "I'm moving from A to B" and striding as "I'm reaching my goals with confidence".
3) Use every opportunity - if walking is an option - go for it.
Even in sedentary jobs in an office environment we usually have the option to walk more. You can either reach the colleague on the other end of the floor or the other floor by email or phone or you can walk to them in person. Here are three reasons why walking and meeting them in person will always be better. 1) You get to move which benefits your body. 2) Face-to-face is the most effective way of communication. 3) The other person will feel that you respect them and their time for making the effort. 4) Bonus - every (enjoyable) social interaction is a small positivity boost in your day.
And how do we remain time-neutral (i.e. don't spend more time)? It's simple - through effectiveness. Although walking to meet the person can seem to take more time, we are more likely to achieve what we aim for. Have you exchanged 5 e-mails or spent 30 minutes on a chat with someone to understand each other. Would it not have been quicker AND more effective to just go and speak with them? You bet.
4) Walking meetings - make the most of what some consider a "waste of time".
Most people's work life features some meetings. Regardless of your attitude about their necessity or value, you can make them more enjoyable by walking. If the meeting involves a large group of people and visuals walking may not be an option.
For your one-to-one and catch-up meetings walking is the ideal activity to bond over.
How about walking during conference calls? I've seen colleagues with cordless headphones and mics walking around the office talking. I thought this is pure genius. Your body benefits (obviously). But you are also likely to be more engaged on the call as you have no other distractions. And when you are standing or walking while on the phone you'll communicate better as you can gesture and engage your whole body in the process.
.... and the best for dessert
5) Take a break(s) - here is how you can make the most of your break(s).
If we are honest with each other, we acknowledge that we cannot stay productive for long periods of time. You can find different figures ranging from 30 to 50 minutes, but definitely less than 1 hour. If you spend more than 60 minutes at your workspace both your body and mind begin to rebel.
Your body's rebellion takes the form of crooked posture. I bet you know what I mean - legs crossed instead of resting on the floor, back bent instead of straight, etc. Your mind's rebellion takes the form of lack of focus. You feel a strong pull to browse the web, check your phone, or procrastinate in every other way possible, isn't there?
How do you restore the peace with your body and mind - get up and take a walk. Even 1-2 minutes can create enormous change. As you move, so does the energy in your body. Movement is life, immobility is stagnation (and death longer-term). The time you "spend" doing this, you regain being more productive throughout the day.
I recommend everyone takes at least one longer break during their work day - at least one hour. What do you do with your break is down to you - but hands down the best thing is to ... Go have a workout. I've written more about this in "Do you have time NOT to work(out)?". But basically,
A daily workout gives you such a boost in health, vitality, focus and efficiency that in practice, it "saves" you time short-term and "gives" you time long term.
So now you know what you must do and have an effective way of doing it. What is your excuse?
Are you willing to sabotage your own health through inactivity?
Are you willing to sacrifice your vitality through laziness?
Are you willing to become part of a disturbing statistic?
I know you are not and so do you. Instead, here is my challenge for you.
1) Pick one of these today and practice it for the next week.
2) The following week pick an extra one and continue applying both.
3) Continue for 5 weeks until you have integrated all.
4) Finally, continue using these smart practices at least for the next six months to make them a sticky habit. So?
Will you take responsibility for your own health?
Will you reward your body for its service by taking good care of it?
Will you choose to be healthier and fitter with these small change?
Are you ready? Go and do it now.
Do you know you can be more?
You and I can make it happen.
Martin Stefanov Petkov