If you’re interested in health and wellness, you’ve probably come across the studies popping up in recent years. This fact is clear: inactivity is killing us and we’re doing way too much sitting. It’s imperative to find ways to add more movement to your day.
Why Should We Add More Movement to Our Day?
Research links too much sitting and a sedentary lifestyle with a number of serious health concerns.
…including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had:
A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause
About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack
Any kind of prolonged sitting – whether in a car or in front of a computer – is equally problematic. Worse, exercise does not make up for the lack of movement. (source) This means that if you have a sedentary lifestyle and work out for an hour a day, you’re still going to experience more health problems and troubles in old age than someone who moves more all day.
We may not want to hear it, but the news is in: we must add more movement to our day. Not just “exercise”. MOVEMENT. More movement also helps us think more clearly and feel happier.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who talks about movement on her blog and in her books. I reviewed one of those books here: Alignment Matters. Katy (you can hear me interview her here) teaches ways to incorporate more movement all day long. Every little bit helps.
The end goal of weight loss or looking good (although that is often the result). The goal is improving your health and feeling better, reducing chronic aches and pains, improving mood and mental clarity and focus, and being able to move like these ladies, average age 80, when you’re a little old lady.
Here are some ways I’ve been working on this in the last few years. And please trust me when I say that I struggle as much to get off the couch as anyone. I’m not naturally a mover. I am normally still and quite content to sit and read for hours. I have to force myself to move around, but when I do I find that I feel so much better, so I’ve learned to incorporate a few small habits into my routine.
Ways To Add More Movement to Your Day
1) Stand to use your computer
You don’t have to buy an expensive treadmill desk or standing desk. (My standing work station is pretty low-tech. My keyboard sits on a wooden board on top of a box and my laptop is on a shelf at eye-level.) But standing to do computer work is better than always sitting. Why? Because when you stand, you don’t stand still. You wiggle, shift, bend, take more breaks. Etc. And it’s ok to sit back down when you need to.
2) Park farther away from the store and take the stairs
We all hear this tip everywhere, but obviously few people do it. The next time you are in a parking lot, take note how many people park far away from the door intentionally. Many drive around the lot waiting for a closer space. Yikes!
Taking the stairs is a no-brainer. Going up stairs gives you a nice backside ladies!
3) Go outside every day
Going outside is good for your health. It helps you with your mood and gives you Vitamin D. Going outside usually means you’ll standing at the very least, or walking around picking up stray shoes and trash, or lifting kids up onto the trampoline, or pushing babies on the swings, or chasing babies away from the road. Wait, maybe that’s just my life! Once you’re outside, go for a short walk.
4) Walk! Walk with kids, friends and for dates
Instead of meeting a friend for lunch or coffee, meet for a walk. Hold walking business meetings. What ways can you incorporate more active, rather than passive recreation into your life?
Go on hiking dates with your spouse. This is especially great if you need to discuss something important with your spouse. Men are less likely to experience emotional “flooding” if they’re moving and talking next to you instead of face to face. (source) Instead of dinner and a movie (both things that make you gain weight and spend money!), why not go for a bike ride, somewhere scenic, together?
I enjoy going on walks with my teen sons. We get to hang out and chat and I enjoy connecting with them in this way.
5) Sit on the floor
Instead of the couch, sit on the floor to play with the little ones, to do schoolwork or read alouds. Because when you sit on the floor you don’t just sit. You stretch, wiggle around, move from side to side. Sitting on the floor lengthens your hamstrings and opens up your hips. (These are chronically tight if you live in a car and chair-centric culture.)
If you have trouble sitting on the floor then you need to make it a practice to do this a lot! We think that we are stiff and sore and that’s why we don’t sit on the floor, but it’s the other way around. We don’t sit on the floor… and so we’re stiff and sore. Little kids and babies don’t have this problem!
Some doctors require their older patients to demonstrate their ability to get down on the floor and get back up. This “exercise” could save your life. Just think: every time you get up from the floor, you’re “weight lifting”!
If you have trouble sitting on the floor, try putting a pillow under your butt. Make sure you aren’t tucking your pelvis under, but rather stick your booty out a little. The point is to lengthen your tight hamstrings. Children do this naturally and easily, and the reason we can’t is because we stopped moving.
Calf and hamstring stretches are especially important to counteract the sitting that we do. They feel awesome, and may just give you a little energy boost too. Our modern lifestyle with an abundance of couches and chairs everywhere have given us super tight hamstrings and calves, and that can result in all sorts of pain and problems. Believe it or not, if you want avoid having to rely on Depends as you age, do your calf and hammie stretches! Tight hamstrings lead to pelvic floor problems.
7) Build tiny movement habits into your day.
Try doing a couple of push-ups every time you go to the bathroom (even if they’re just countertop push-ups). Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, does a plank while she heats things up in the microwave. Do a calf stretch while you talk on the phone. Sit on the floor and stretch your hamstrings while you watch TV. Etc.
Create tiny habits like this that are anchored by another activity you often do.
8) Play at the playground and find a park with exercise equipment
Instead of sitting on a bench watching the kids play, play yourself! Hang from the monkey bars, climb up the rock wall (and over the top to the other side), or at the very least walk around. We’ve found several parks in our area with exercise equipment. The kids get to play while we adults do a quick workout. (There’s that “stacking your life” to save time thing again!)”
9) Hold your baby (why I threw away my stroller and stopped babywearing)
When I realized that the baby stroller I had was encouraging my baby to curve her spine and tuck her pelvis (BAD habits for anyone, but especially a growing child!), I threw away my stroller.
I also stopped using my baby carrier. Using a sling or baby carrier loads the baby’s weight in ONE way on your body, which as any babywearing parent can testify, can lead to aches and pains. I’ve heard of so many moms giving themselves chronic pain from babywearing! But if you hold baby in your arms, you’re going to move that baby from hip to hip frequently to change the load.
I love attachment parenting and my baby is welcome in my arms anytime, but using my body to hold her means we’re both healthier. Now I only use a sling or carrier on sick or extremely fussy days when I must have my hands free, or to help navigate difficult/dangerous situations with baby in tow.
10) Sit up straight – even while driving
Car seats are absolutely awful for posture. They make it nearly impossible for you to sit up straight with your head atop your shoulders, instead forcing you to jut your head forward into that unattractive and unhealthy “text next” posture.
To compensate, allow a few inches between your back and the seat, and put something there to keep you from sinking into the bucket-shaped seat. Standing or sitting up straight is a passive way of working your abs. Their job is to keep you upright, and if you’re always slumped over, they’re not activating.
11) Think like une fille francaise (a French girl!)
Our culture focuses far too much on “exercise” to the exclusion of “natural movement”. One of the things I’ve noticed when I read about French women is that they generally do not do le sport (exercise).
French girls take the stairs. There aren’t a lot of elevators in France and many people live in places where they must climb several flights of stairs to get to their apartment multiple times a day. You are now allergic to elevators!
French girls bike or walk their errands. It’s quite common to see an elderly French woman biking or walking into the village. (When was the last time you saw an 80 year old American woman doing this?)
If there is a destination close enough for you to walk or bike to, do it! You’ll have more energy all day, save money on gas, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world all around you. Bike or walk with a loved one and it’s even better.
We need to get away from the way of thinking that health means sweating it out at a gym in spandex.
Have you found ways to add more movement to your day? Please share below! And if you like this post, please share it. Thanks!