Do you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly but sit long hours each day at work?
If so, you could be undoing all your good work.
Sitting, even if you otherwise practice healthy habits, is associated with poor cardiovascular health, higher inflammation, and more belly fat. This is bad news for the millions of Americans who must work at a desk. In fact, it can feel downright insulting to learn that all our healthful efforts are being thwarted by our jobs.
Studies link prolonged sitting with compromised metabolic health, higher risk of disease, and shorter life span. Walking daily not only improves your health, it also soothes the mind, inspires creativity, and heightens the mood. Even if you already work out regularly, walking can still deliver these benefits.
Walking is beneficial even if you work out.
If you’re not walking because you already work out regularly, you may be short-changing yourself. For one thing, if you’re a runner, walking instead could save wear and tear on your joints. Newer research has shown that training for marathons and long distance runs may even damage the heart and arteries.
Walking also improves brain health in ways other exercises do not. Research of adults in their mid 60s showed that an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory, grew in the subjects who walked regularly compared to subjects who did other forms of exercise. Walking regularly is an excellent way to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, walking can stimulate the creative juices that may be put on hold during a weight-training or high-intensity-interval cardiovascular session. For Americans on information overload and inundated with daily distractions, walking slows you down and invites you to soak in the world around you.
Walking also offers a great way to socialize with others. Socialization has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of many disorders, making a walk with friends or family doubly good for you.
Walking is good for those intimidated by exercise.
For Americans who are overworked and overly sedentary, committing to a weight lifting routine or a workout class at the local gym may seem intimidating, overwhelming, or too expensive at first. A daily walk can be an excellent and non-threatening way to embark on an exercise program and reap the many benefits it promises. Once you’ve done it a few times ,you’ll quickly realize it doesn’t require the same level of motivation as something more arduous. Walking is a great way to escape and renew yourself on a regular basis.
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking 30 to 45 minutes at least six days a week along with a healthy diet has been shown to offer the following benefits:
- Shed excess fat
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve circulation
- Strengthen bones
- Reduce stress
- Prevent depression
- Prevent Type 2 diabetes
- Improve mood and well-being
- Reduce risk of colon and breast cancer
- Prevent heart disease
Besides starting a walking routine, there are things you can do right in your office. Sitting disease antidotes can be as simple as moving around more or working while standing.
Create a treadmill desk. A treadmill desk is just want it sounds like, a desktop built over a treadmill. Users walk very slowly on the treadmill and can easily talk, type, and perform other desk work while burning 100 calories an hour and starving off metabolic risks.
Stand at your desk. A quicker and less cumbersome fix is a standing desk. To make one, try stacking something tall on your desk on which to set your computer. If you work at home, you might choose to work on your laptop while standing at the kitchen counter. Standing burns more calories than sitting and engages more muscles, enhancing metabolic activity.
Frequent breaks are key. If you do choose to sit, you can mitigate the effects of sitting disease with frequent breaks and lots of movement throughout the day. Australian researchers found that those who took frequent breaks had lower levels of C-reactive protein (an important marker of inflammation) and smaller waists. Waist size, like excess belly fat, is a marker for increased risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other inflammation-related disorders.
Take a stand against excessive sitting. Get up every half hour. Move about in your chair. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the outer reaches of the parking lot. Go ahead and fidget and bustle, and trot between the computer and printer, or to the bathroom. Research shows that not only will you combat sitting disease, but you’ll also be less likely to gain weight compared to your more sedentary coworkers.