Activity is not just about “exercise,” it’s about moving your body more all day long. This type of light activity is essential, whether you’re a card-carrying couch potato or a marathon runner. Growing evidence finds that too much sitting harms your heart health. Worse, that damage is not easily undone by jumping on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes in the morning if you spend the other 23 ½ hours sleeping and sitting. A recent study of 1,579 people found that people whose jobs require more than 6 hours of chair time a day are 68% more likely to wind up overweight than those who sit less.
The solution: Stand more. By using these tips you’ll be in motion more all day long. That alone could be enough to help you shed stubborn pounds for good.
1. Limit yourself to one TV show: Watching TV is a great way to unwind. But when it comes to the tube, there’s such a thing as too much downtime. The average American tunes in for 3 hours a day, which is really bad news for your waistline, especially when you consider that watching TV burns only slightly more calories than sleeping. Harvard researchers have found that every 2 hours spent watching television increases the likelihood of obesity by 23% and raises your risk of developing diabetes by 14%. Trade 1 hour of TV time for one long walk, and you can slash your obesity risk by 24% and lower your risk of diabetes by 34%.
2. Step it up: There’s a reason an exercise machine called the Stair-Master exists: Taking the stairs is really, really good exercise! In one study, exercise scientists calculated that by taking just two more flights of stairs (up and down) each day, you could burn off 6 pounds in a year. Find excuses to make multiple trips between floors at work (using a restroom on another floor is one way) and at home.
3. Walk the halls at work: When you’re stuck for ideas at work, get up and walk the halls. Stand and stretch during phone calls. Twice a day, get up and walk to talk to a colleague instead of e-mailing. Stanford University researchers calculated that if you were to walk across your office building and back to talk to a coworker instead of spending the same 2 minutes e-mailing, you could spare yourself 11 pounds over 10 years–effectively avoiding the “midlife spread.”
4. Stand at your desk: Here’s a very simple move that every office worker can do: Stand up. Sitting at your desk for an hour burns 63 calories. Standing burns 127, twice as many. If you have a cordless phone, you might even be able to pace a bit, just to get the blood flowing even more. Many workplaces are now offering drafting-style tables and high chairs for office workers, which gives you the option of working on your feet most of the day and sitting down to take breaks (instead of the other way around–standing when you need a break). Ask your human resources manager about them. You’ll be surprised how much more energy you have when you spend your day on your feet rather than in your seat.
5. Get on the ball: Sit on a large stability or Swiss ball while checking e-mail in the evening. It’s an easy way to engage all of your muscles for 15 to 20 minutes. You might even be inspired to do a few stretches and crunches after you log off.
6. Fire the maid and gardener: All those services that you hire to make your life easier can also end up making you heavier. Small daily tasks, like weeding the garden, mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, and cleaning house, can add up to an aerobic workout. In a 2-year study of 230 overweight and inactive men and women, researchers at the Cooper Institute, an aerobics-research organization in Dallas, found that those who spent 30 minutes a day raking the lawn, taking the stairs, and walking from far spaces in parking lots achieved the same improvements in fitness, blood pressure, and body fat as those who went to the gym for vigorous exercise 20 to 60 minutes at a time, 5 days a week.
7. Prep yourself slim: Cooking is a great wayo burn calories. Slicing, dicing, and braising burns twice as many , in fact, as calling your Chinese takeout place. Because you’re in charge of the ingredients, cook with metabolism-boosting ingredients like those from the Active Calorie Diet. Limit takeout and delivery to two meals a week, tops.
8. Consider a stepper: Office workers are ideal candidates for a portable mini stepper like the Stamina InStride Electronic Mini Stepper–essentially, just two small Stair-climber -like pedals without the giant machine attached. Research from the Mayo Clinic found that workers who used these clever step devices while making phone calls or answering e-mail burned an extra 290 calories an hour–enough to burn off more than 40 pounds over the course of a year if they used the machines just 2 hours a day. The strategy is a little unconventional but worth considering. The stepper is relatively inexpensive and small enough to slide under your desk when you’re not using it. Stepping is also something you can do while watching TV at night.
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