I am trying something new. Instead of working at my computer for hours on end I am scheduling regular breaks. My goal is to set the timer on my phone to go off after one hour. I’ll work for an hour, take a break, then sit down at the computer for another hour. I say goal because even though I did great all day yesterday, this morning I screwed up first thing. Yup, even though it’s today’s blog topic, I forgot to set the timer! It’s on now though — 55:22 minutes left until my next break!
My new routine is the result of reading yet another study about the health risks related to being sedentary. I am not a couch potato. I don’t lounge in front of the TV eating bonbons and I do exercise regularly. But even if you are physically active, if you sit for long periods of time, say in your car or in front of your computer, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Think about it. During your workday how often do you get up from your desk? Are you so focused that you lose track of time? Are you apt to send an email to a coworker when you could just as easily deliver the message face to face?
My problem is that I become so engrossed in my writing the hours speed by. I guess it’s a sign that I love what I do, which is a good thing. But, when I finally haul myself up from the chair, I’m often stiff and sore, which is not a good thing.
And according to several studies, even though I may run on the treadmill every morning, because I sit so long at the computer I am at a higher risk of dying, of heart disease in particular. A 2009 study of more than 17,000 Canadians showed that sedentary people were roughly 50% more likely to die during the study’s follow-up period than the people who sat the least, even after taking into account age, smoking habits, and physical activity levels.
A more recent study of nearly 8000 men between the ages of 20 and 89 examined the relationship between two common sedentary behaviors — riding in a car and watching television — and deaths related to heart disease. The results showed a significant connection and that it is important to not only increase regular physical activity but to decrease sedentary behaviors.
In 2003, the Nurses’ Health Study following more than 50,000 women for six years to examine the relationship between various sedentary behaviors and the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Researchers concluded that “Independent of exercise levels, sedentary behaviors, especially TV watching, were associated with a significantly elevated risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
I know it’s not new information that we shouldn’t sit for long periods of time. But when I am at my computer concentrating on a writing project, I confess that I pay no heed. I want to do a better job, so that’s why I’m trying something new. I’m shifting my focus from being more physically active to being less sedentary. There is a difference.
The timer alerts me that I’ve been sitting for an hour and that I need to get up and move. Because I now work from home, my options are different from when I worked in an office. Yesterday, for instance, during my first break I went outside into the beautiful sunshine and cut some forsythia and daffodils in my backyard.
I’m back from a 15-minute break feeling refreshed and ready to write for another hour. I’m only into day two, but already I am aware of benefits that go well beyond reducing health risks.
- More focused when I am at the computer
- Not stiff when I get up from the chair
- Better organized
- Feel more productive, even on breaks
- Think it will help keep my rear end in shape
- Am extremely pleased with myself
Setting an alarm (with a pleasing tone, btw) to remind me to take a break. Such a simple solution and it makes me feel so happy! If you have any tips on how to be less sedentary, I hope you will share them.