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  • Writer's pictureLyndsey Harwood

Sat at your desk all day? Here's why you need to make sure you move

The importance of getting away from your work regularly will improve your mental and physical wellbeing

It turns out that a lack of #exercise in our lives is a silent killer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists physical inactivity as the fourth biggest risk factor for death in adults across the world. 

The latest research shows when it comes to heart disease, leading a sedentary life is as great a risk factor as smoking and obesity. Hectic schedules can make it seem impossible to fit workouts into your busy week. But when we neglect exercise, we not only put both our physical and mental health at risk but we also negatively impact our productivity and effectiveness at work.

Today, many of us are working from home and creating that discipline to ensure you get out can be difficult. There isn't even the 'popping out for lunch' excuse! The trouble is that whether it's during lockdown or not, those with desk based jobs are prone to spending long periods of time sitting and staring at our screens. This is bad news. It increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer. It also effects your brain function as the blood flow slows down as well as affecting your memory, energy levels and calorie burning.

What people don't realise, is that even if you are considered a 'normal weight' you are still at risk - the fact is that if you are inactive, you open yourself up to developing health problems. Whether its high visceral fat, cholesterol or high blood pressure, it all spells trouble and one thing can lead to another if you don't do something about it.

Just to be clear. You can’t bank the benefits of exercise from your youth either, it makes no difference. However the good news is that this works both ways! So even if you've never been one for sport and exercise, your health can still benefit from physical activity no matter what your age, so find your 'thing' and go for it!

And the good news is that we can combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting (total of 8 hours or more) with just 60-75 minutes of physical activity a day. That includes simply getting up from your desk and going for a walk.

Today we have a wealth of opportunities to help us monitor this so that we meet that target. You can use a smartwatch, fitness tracker or even a heart rate monitor (for the more serious amongst us), or simply carrying your phone around, you can watch your steps and keep on top of your activity. Some even have inactivity 'stamps' where you get gentle reminders to get up and move.

Physical activity performed regularly, can help to prevent and manage more than 20 chronic medical conditions. These include coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, mental health problems and musculoskeletal conditions."

Top tips

  • Invest in a fitness tracker. They don't have to be expensive as can start from as little as £20 and if nothing else, you can use your smartphone via Google Fit or Apple Health to monitor your movement.

  • Ensure you make time every hour to get up from your desk. Even if you set an alarm. While we are in lockdown get out for some fresh air.

  • Use a mindfulness app like Headspace. Use it as a reminder to get out, put your headphones on and take even a 3-5minute break listening to some mindfulness to reset and get you ready to rip through your work with an active and alert mind.

  • Go for a run, long or short, before work, after work or even at lunch. It is the easiest way to get 15-20 minutes of exercise. Don't pressure yourself about speed, distance or any other metrics just enjoy being outside in the fresh air and relaxing.

  • Don't move from your desk and go straight on to your mobile to check social media! Take the time to get away from a screen.

  • Take a mid-morning break to do a yoga or pilates class. Or even just spending 15 minutes doing basic stretching. You'll be surprised how relaxing and beneficial this can be.

  • Try and aim to get away from your desk at least five minutes per hour, even if it's to make a cup of tea!

Problems associated with sitting at a desk all day:

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