Back when I worked in an office, I decided to track my steps to start developing some healthier patterns — after all, my official title was "receptionist," which meant a lot of sitting and answering phones, and not too much movement. I knew that sitting all day affects your body in some gnarly ways, but even then, I was a little delusional on how much activity I'd need to make a real difference. At one point, I actually bragged to a salesman that I had hit a whopping 2,500 steps that day, and he — a fitness buff, mind you — gave me a look that was like, "I want to be proud of you, since we're friendly, but there's so much wrong with your glory, young Karen." Later, still feeling falsely proud, I told my sister about my steps, and she informed me that she usually hit that amount while simply walking to work. Second lesson learned that day — it's tough to compare stats with an active New Yorker.
But, at the same time, it was difficult. While I tried to make the most out of walking to the printer, interacting with coworkers in their offices, and going to my car since I forgot I left my morning coffee in there, it seemed nearly impossible to try and hit a healthy amount of steps during the day. I tried hitting the gym after work on occasion, but after 5 p.m., I was a little exhausted and a little hangry to fully get the most out of my cardio. I admit, part of it was personal laziness — I mean, even if I spend eight hours a day somewhere else, I'm still solely responsible for my own fitness goals. It's just another obstacle I'd have to power through.
Looking back, what I should have done was made more of my lunch break. That hour, I usually popped back home for a PB&J and a taped rerun of The Simpsons on my DVR. Instead, I could have taken a walk outside, or at least driven a short distance to a park, where my walking path would have been a bit more scenic. With age comes knowledge, regarding how important it truly is to keep on moving. We're all a work in progress, right?
For those of you who might be able to relate, here are a few stats about what sitting all day really does to your body, to encourage you to take a leisurely walk and enjoy some fresh air and sun during your lunch break.
1. You're at risk for organ damage
By sitting, you're slowing down your blood flow, which causes muscles to burn less fat. The more fat, the better chance for fatty acids to clog up the works and cause problems with your heart. According to Peak Fitness, sitting also affects your insulin production — if you sit for more than eight hours a day, you're risking your likeliness of Type 2 Diabetes by a whopping 90 percent.
2. You're slowing down digestion
This one makes sense — obviously body movement helps you burn energy from food. So not only can excess sitting wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal tract, but you'll likely deal with the negative symptoms that make general productivity a little harder, like cramps, heartburn, and bloating. No thanks.
3. You screw up your posture
A lot of us have a bit of a relaxed slump due to desk work, but staying in that slump for eight hours can cause permanent problems, as well as backaches, sore shoulders, and herniated disks. If you've ever slipped a disk, or pulled a muscle back there, you know how excruciating this pain can be. Both walking and stretching can definitely make you feel a lot more at ease, and able to stand properly and proudly.
4. You weaken your legs
By sitting, you're sending your legs on a nice vacation. Resting is always good, but it's best to do this during sleep, not during the day, when you'll be depending on leg strength the most. Healthline states that when you weaken your leg muscles, you're pretty much setting yourself up for future injury.
5. You have a higher risk of blood clots
Blood clots are nothing to mess with. By lack of activity, you put yourself at risk of deep vein thrombosis (often shortened to DVT), which can cut off the blood flow to vital organs. Healthline reports that even a long road trip, where you're sitting for long distances at a time, might cause DVT. DVT really is no joke, as people have died after having this happen to them.
6. Anxiety and depression can reach an all-time high
Mental health issues are finally getting a little more attention these days, which is excellent, as a lot of us suffer from these quiet disabilities. While taking a walk and breaking up the sit-cycle won't necessarily cure you of your anxiety and depression, they can definitely lessen the symptoms. According to MayoClinic, some simple exercise will help release feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters that might make you have a better outlook on life. The increase in body temperature will also help calm you down when things seem out of control. Taking a walk during lunch is ideal, since you'll be moving right in the middle of your work day.
If you've been sitting at work for years, the effects will be even worse. Break the cycle by talking a walk, and know that you're getting active for all of the right reasons.
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