Back in the day, they called it “secretarial spread” – that lovely condition where your rear end grows in proportion to the level of sedentary job you have.
Even so, in a corporate setting one can run up and down stairs, cross the campus and move from building to building or department to department. If you’re lucky, it’s a small hike to the copier, and with effort you can pretty mindlessly add steps to your step-counter.
Not so much in your home office.
According to Prevention Magazine here’s what sitting all day does for you: “First, chairs and couches lead to trouble for the simple reason that they support your body weight. With a chair holding you up, your ankles, knees, and hips stiffen; your muscles weaken; your shoulders round forward; and your back hunches. Even worse, your circulation slows, which depresses your metabolism.”
It gets worse.
The Harvard Heart Letter states that, “The health hazards of not moving much are wide ranging, says Dr. Joanne Foody, who directs the Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “While we often think of the dangers of inactivity in terms of worsening cardiovascular health, there are a myriad of negative effects,” she says. The current study documented higher rates of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cancer-related deaths in very sedentary people. An unrelated study has linked more sitting and less activity with an increased risk of developing dementia.”
If you’re a freelancer, how do you get more movement in your day and avoid the pitfalls of a sedentary occupation? It’s a bit of a challenge, but it can be done. Try these activities on for size:
Walk or run early in the day. By getting out early, you eliminate the excuse to procrastinate about exercise. You increase your heart rate, get the body and mind primed and invigorated for your day. You increase your level of alertness, and endorphins kick in to set the tone for positive well-being. By the time you are ready to sit down at the computer, your mind is firing on all cylinders and you can think and react quickly to whatever is on your desk.
Set some Pomodoros throughout your day. What is a Pomodoro? Besides being the Italian word for tomato, the Pomodoro Technique was a simple time management system developed by a college student where he set a timer (shaped like a tomato) for 25 minute increments with a 5 minute break at the end. During that 25 minutes he intensely focused on one thing at a time and did not allow any distraction to interrupt his focus.
After completing your 25 minute Pomodoro, get up, use the restroom or grab a glass of water. With regards to movement, the key for a freelancer is not to allow hours to go by without moving from your chair. Use your 5 minute break to do some house-walking – yes, house-walking is a thing. Do 10 laps around your kitchen/dining area before sitting down again or a few marches up and down the stairs. Use a step counter and keep track of your movement. Set a realistic step goal for yourself and do what it takes to reach it.
Use those Pomodoro breaks for some simple stretching. Prevention Magazine has 6 easy stretches for someone to perform in a home office – no need to do them all at once, but try incorporating them throughout your day. Do you like Yoga? Cobra and Cat Lift/Cat Arch are good stretches for your back, which can tend to hunch at a sedentary job. A good leg stretch can be done by getting your butt as close to the wall as possible with your back flat on the floor and your legs straight up against the wall. Sit there for a minute or so and feel the stretch.
Virtual Assistants, Online Marketers, Web Developers or anybody who spends long hours in their home office will benefit by frequent movement and allowing yourself an exit strategy from “being in the zone”. Your brain and your rear end will thank you for it!
Thanks for reading and I’d love you to share your ideas about how you incorporate more movement in your day, in my comments section.