If you work in a sedentary office environment, you might go four to five hours at a time without standing and stretching your legs. We’ve covered how dangerous this can be, but what are the steps to combat the detrimental effects if a standing desk isn’t an option?
A new study at the University of Utah School of Medicine found that taking a two-minute walk every hour can help counteract some of the harmful effects of prolonged periods of sitting. They found that utilizing two-minute breaks of very light activity, such as walking or cleaning, was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of early death – quite a significant finding.
We all understand that exercise is essential for our bodies and minds to function properly. It positively impacts our overall physical, mental and emotional well-being. In a sedentary lifestyle with excessive job-related pressure, trying to implement 30 minutes of exercise per day may be a challenge and one that’s continually procrastinated. Two minutes of activity per hour, however, has a low barrier for the mind to get over, and can be easily implemented immediately. The added benefit of this is the building of a habit related to your overall movement and well-being that could snowball into further habits. Even if you’re already exercising regularly – this consistent, low-impact movement can assist your body in coping with the effects of the sedentary lifestyle.
I’ve also found a lot of mental benefit from consistently engaging in this activity. How often do we go through the motions of our day; after finishing one task, quickly looking for the next one to stay busy? How many times throughout our days are we able to take a step back and get a higher level view of what we’re doing in the moment, and in the context of the whole day, week, month? I’ve recently caught myself in this cycle of pushing through each day without taking a step back, and realized how it was affecting my ability to take in the present and have a stronger focus toward all of my work. Taking these two-minute walks at intervals throughout the day has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve discovered in assisting with this.
Implementing this is very simple. Set a timer on your cell phone for 60 minutes. Every time it goes off, take a two-minute walk around the office or step outside briefly to soak in some sun. If you’re able to, try implementing the Pomodoro Technique into your work – this is a method of focused working or learning for 25 minutes, and then taking a five-minute break of low mental activity to allow your brain a space to relax and consolidate what you’re learning or working on. During these five minutes, you should do something that requires little to no mental effort – take 10 deep breaths, do a stretch, walk around the office, clean up your desk, etc. Thousands of people have reported improved focus, creativity and overall well-being from implementing this technique.