We know that sitting is bad for your health and has been dubbed “the new smoking.” Two years ago I got put on a fitbit and started walking, and haven’t stopped. It’s benefited overall physical health and boosts cognitive function.
I’ve been incorporating sitting, standing, and walking into my work and doing sessions at nonprofit conferences about walking as work. After a session at the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference, Lisa Colton, set up the “Take A Walk” group on Facebook for nonprofit folks who are sharing their walks and tips. It’s now has over 60 members and growing. Susan Tenby invited me and Allison Leahy, Community Manager for FitBit to do a session at the monthly online community managers gathering in July.
Over the past few months, I’ve been delighted to take walks with professional colleagues. During the Data for Good Conference, I had an opportunity to walk with colleagues David Krumlauf and Sharon Burns and recently I got take hikes with Kivi Leroux Miller and Allison Fine when they were in town. There is no better type of professional relationship building than walking shoulder-to-shoulder.
Many times I hear from people that they realize sitting for long periods is unhealthy, but they are unable to make the time to take a walk or shift their habit of sitting meetings to walking meetings. So, with the growing body of research that is telling us that sitting is shortening our lives, how to best respond?
It is easier to make some small changes yourself than trying to change your organization’s culture, although that too is possible. Here are some small steps you can take:
- Stop thinking of solo walking as “exercise” it is a great time to think about challenging work task
- Recognize when you are not productive sitting and take a five minute walk around your office, stretch
- Hack a standing desk
- Incorporate 20-30 minute solo walks during the day
- Forward your calls to your mobile phone and talk while walking
- Walking commute to work, if possible or park far away or get off bus a stop early
- Go for a networking walk at a conference during lunch or the break
To make a change in your behavior you need shift your perspective. James Levine, Mayo Clinic, leading expert in medical research on the harmful effects of sitting suggests: ”Think of sitting a way to rest your body from standing, not the default.” In addition to thinking about how much exercise can you can get this week, also think about how little sitting you can do. When you start thinking this way, you look for more ways to integrate standing or moving into your work.
Here’s another tip. Use the 20/8/2 rule. Cornell ergonomic expert Alan Hedges recommends 20 minutes sitting, eight minutes standing, two minutes walking. Repeat. The formula also improves productivity and posture, studies show. While this may sound a little prescriptive, it is based on health research and simple to put into practice.
In fact, a recent article in the New York Times (hat tip Jereme Bivins), “A 2-minute Walk May Counter the Harm of Sitting” points to another recently released study that suggests that even a few minutes per hour of moving instead of remaining in a chair might substantially reduce the harms of sitting.
According to the study’s author, the reduction in death risk is likely related to energy balance. Walking, even for two minutes, instead of sitting increases the number of calories that someone burns, potentially contributing to weight loss,which then affect mortality risk. The articles ends with a great suggestion: “the possible benefits of strolling more often around the office seem alluring and the risks slight, especially if you invite your boss to join you, highlighting your tender care for his or her well-being.”