Get out of your chair. Photo source: Amy Mullins
Have you ever thought about how many hours a day you spend sitting? Sitting at your desk, sitting in front of a computer, sitting watching television, sitting in the car, sitting, sitting, sitting. On average, Americans sit approximately 13 hours a day and sleep 8 hours adding up to a whopping 21 hours of inactivity. All of this sitting around may in fact be shortening our lives.
The cumulative effect of daily inactivity, or sedentary time, has contributed to a nationwide crisis of escalating chronic health conditions that include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type-2 diabetes. According to research, including a 2014 Harvard study of over 92,000 women, the risk of dying from stroke, heart disease, and cancer increases with the more time spent standing. In addition, the negative effects of excessive sitting seem to be just as strong in people that participated in a regular exercise regimen!
Standing Has Many Benefits
Our bodies increase a fat-burning enzyme called Lipoprotein Lipase when muscles are activated. This doesn’t just happen during purposeful exercise, but even during periods of standing. In fact, standing burns 30% more calories than sitting still! Regular engagement of muscles keeps them in a more continuous metabolic state that helps improve blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Regular intervals of standing with minimal movement does all of this and so much more:
- Improves posture
- Tones muscles
- Increases blood flow
- Improves metabolism
- Improves mood
- Increases mental energy
- Reduces fatigue
During a typical day at work, experts recommend not sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time with regular intervals of standing. Standing up and walking even for just 5 minutes can lift your mood, increase mental energy and productivity, and can even dull your urge for unnecessary snacking.
What You Can Do
Standing desk. Photo source: Amy Mullins
Get up and move more! Consider some of these ideas to help in your quest to be more active during the day:
- Create a culture of health and encourage others in your workplace to support one another.
- Purchase a “standing desk” or get creative and make one to meet your needs
- Use a smartphone app, wrist monitoring device (such as a FitBit), or just an alarm on your phone or desktop to remind you to stand up and stretch or to walk outside for some fresh air.
- Instead of emailing or calling a co-worker, get up and take a stroll down the hall.
- On a conference call? Stand, move, stretch, do squats or desk push-ups.
- Take the stairs as often as you can.
- Forget hum-drum meetings in the conference room! Get creative on your feet and schedule walking meetings.
- Skip the afternoon coffee and energize with some office exercises. Consider getting an exercise mat, resistance band, stability ball and light weights.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to the office and enjoy part of your lunch break taking a brisk walk and/or stretching.
- Bring your own reusable bottle to work and drink more water throughout the day. More water means more times you’ll have to walk to the restroom!
It’s not easy to create positive habits, but your health is worth it. But, making even a few changes to your normal routine can put you on a path to a happier and healthier life. For additional information about healthy habits in the workplace, visit:
NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine
U.S. Division of Occupational Health and Safety
CDC Workplace Health Promotion
University of Michigan Computer Ergonomics
Arriving home after work, the race against the clock begins. I have only two hours to get dinner on the table and to get my family fed, bathed, and in bed. But, what do I make for dinner? I need something that is quick, easy, and my family will eat.
Use a slow cooker to have dinner ready when you get home.
Preparing healthy meals at home doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Planning will go a long way to help save you time. Good nutrition doesn’t just happen; you have to plan for it. Start by creating a weekly meal calendar and shopping list. This will help you save time and money. For mealtime emergencies, keep a well-stocked pantry and plenty of frozen fruits and vegetable on hand in the freezer.
- Choose foods with faster cooking times: ground meat, tender cuts, chops, or fish. Vegetables and meat cut into small pieces will cook very quickly in a stir-fry. Canned and frozen vegetables make quick side dishes.
- Make extra food when you have time. On weekends, make double or triple batches to stock your freezer with main dishes. Soups, sauces, and casseroles work well to freeze for later use. Cook dried beans, meat, and pasta to freeze for use in meals during the week.
- One-dish meals like fajitas, salads, sandwiches, and casseroles are a great way to include a variety of nutritious foods at dinner time. Use a slow cooker to have dinner ready when you get home. One-dish meals save time on clean-up, too.
- Save time and money by incorporating “planned-overs” into your menus. Pack leftovers for lunches the next day. Use leftover chicken in salads, soups, quesadillas, or pasta dishes.
Preparing healthy meals may take some planning and effort but can be quick and easy. Now, if I could just figure out what to do about my picky eater…
To learn more about healthy cooking, sign up for the Fabulous Foods cooking series beginning in August. For more information about the cooking class or making healthy meals, contact the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension office at 850-606-5200 or contact Kendra Zamojski at Hughson@ufl.edu
Create Your Own Casserole or One-Dish Meal:
It is easy to make a casserole or one-dish meal with items that you have on hand. Choose one or more ingredient(s) from each of the following categories:
- 1½ to 2 cups cooked or canned meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas
- 1½ cups vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, broccoli, peas, cabbage)
- 1 to 1½ cups cubed bread, cooked rice, or pasta
- 1 to 1½ cups liquid ingredients (e.g. cream soup, tomato soup or sauce, cheese sauce, white sauce, evaporated milk, or shredded cheese plus milk)
- Other optional ingredients for flavor (e.g. onion, spices, herbs)
Mix ingredients thoroughly and cook in the oven or on the stove top. If you cook in the oven, place the ingredients in a covered casserole dish and add optional toppings, such as bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Uncover the last 15 minutes to brown the topping. Serve hot.
If you cook this one-dish meal on the stove top, place the ingredients in a large skillet. Simmer until bubbly. An optional topping of Parmesan cheese or croutons can be added to each serving. Serve hot.