How can I combat my sedentary lifestyle?

Each month, leading integrative health expert, Dr Andrew Weil, gives his definitive answer to a medical question

By

How can I combat my sedentary lifestyle?

The benefits of sensible, moderate exercise for healthy living is something that I strongly believe in. You should do something aerobic outside the once every day; some activity that gets your heart beating faster and sweat appearing on your skin. Vary your workouts to stop you from getting bored and to work as many muscles as possible – gardening and dancing count, too.

Intermittently, aim to add in some strength training, which increases metabolism and promotes healthy bones. Most of us sit while we work and travel. Research strongly suggests that too much sitting is detrimental to our health, and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal disorders, emotional illnesses, and a long list of other ailments.

These untoward effects can occur in the absence of weight gain, even for those who exercise on a regular basis.

Some, but not all, research also points to an increased risk of premature death related to sitting more than seven hours a day. The absence of movement and holding a stationary posture for a prolonged period of time is harmful. Movement is important for optimal physical and emotional health.

An easy way to begin is by stretching. Stretching improves the tone and health of muscles, limbers joints, changes the dynamics of the nervous system and just feels good.

If you work leaning over a desk, gently arch your head, neck, and shoulders backwards intermittently during the day. Some yoga poses can even be performed at your desk. Be mindful of other easy ways to increase activity – get up and walk for a few minutes, at least once every hour; use the stairs; create walking meetings; or stand up when on the phone, shifting your weight from one leg to the other. Keep stretch bands or dumbbells at work to use from time to time.

Find co-workers who share your desire to be fit and create a lunchtime walking group, which offers the extra benefit of social interaction.

If you still have trouble fitting exercise into your routine, you can always fidget. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), such as fidgeting or pacing, can burn a number of calories. And, while some offices may not permit standing or treadmill desks, you could try one at home. Physical activity creates energy that contributes to productivity.

Read more from Dr Weil at drweil.com. You can also follow him on twitter: @drweil

Photograph: iStock