Sometimes finding the time or motivation to exercise seems impossible. The more you sit, the higher your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a systematic review in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Doing as little as gradually building up your ability to stand for long durations of time is all you need to improve your cardiovascular health. Here are five ways you can incorporate easy exercises into your day.
1. Pay attention.
Change starts with awareness. Start by taking note of how much you sit throughout your day: at home, in the office and in your car. “Just being aware of this can trigger you to react,” says Betsey Banker, a former wellness educator for Ergotron in Eagan, Minnesota. No need to formally log your sitting time—Banker recommends just mentally noting how much time you’re spending in a chair.
2. Focus on one change.
Sitting is a societal norm, so it can be tough to break the habit, Banker says. To start, choose one way you will stand instead of sit each day. For instance, stand to check that first batch of emails in the morning, read the morning news while standing at the kitchen counter, or pledge to stand or pace whenever you’re on the phone.
3. Create new defaults.
Many people sit by default in certain situations, such as when waiting at a restaurant, doctor’s office or airport. Try to notice whenever you zoom right to a bench or chair, and try standing instead. “Waiting time can be a great way to stand, even move, more,” Banker says. It may feel a little awkward at first, especially if you’re the only one standing. But soon it can feel so second-nature that you may start wondering why the whole room isn’t standing too.
4. Work up to the 30-30 rule.
A good goal to work toward is trying to stand for 30 minutes for every 30 minutes that you spend sitting. One caveat? “You need to build gradually to standing for 30 minutes at a time,” Banker says. Otherwise, it will be like walking a 10K without having trained for it: because your body isn’t ready for the challenge, you could risk injury. Start by standing for two minutes every half-hour, and slowly increase that time.
5. Move while sitting.
While standing and moving is best, it’s not always possible. Fortunately, you can move a little whenever you’re sitting to get that blood flowing, says Rick Kattouf II, O.D., a personal trainer and triathlon coach in Greenville, South Carolina. He suggests knee lifts (alternate lifting one knee a few inches above your chair and then lowering it back down), leg extensions (alternate extending one leg straight out in front of you and then back down) and calf raises (keep the balls of your feet on the floor while lifting your heels up and down).
© Meredith Operations Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.