Image courtesy of WalkTop/Fitneff Image by: Image courtesy of WalkTop/Fitneff
Use these tools to get moving at your desk and save yourself from sitting disease.Getting exercise at work isn't exactly easy. Many of us have day jobs that require long hours of sitting in front of a computer or standing at a counter, and that's not good for our hearts and muscles. In a 2015 analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers found that sitting for prolonged periods of time was associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and about a 15 to 20 percent increased risk of dying from any cause. And unfortunately, though exercising after hours is healthy, it doesn't counteract the effects of a long sedentary day.
Have you ever gotten so focused on something at work that you forgot to get up for three hours straight? Sometimes we all need a reminder to get up and stretch our muscles. This app lets you pre-program reminders to take short breaks for exercise. The one-minute workouts rotate through 45 different exercises, all of which can be done without even leaving your desk. Just select whether you want a workout for sitting or standing—there's even an option for in-meeting moves!—and follow along through the tension-relieving exercises. 1 Minute Desk Workout, available for iPhone and iPad, free.
Treadmill desks are destined to be office staples in the future, as we learn more about the dangers of long-term sitting. Why not ask your employer to invest in one now? Whether you work at home or in a professional space, switching from a chair to a treadmill is one of the best ways to prevent sitting disease. Plus, working while moving isn't the productivity killer you would expect; after all, the point of a treadmill desk is to avoid getting into a sedentary slump while you work, not to work up a sweat. You'll find it's easy to keep a steady pace while you prep for a presentation, and the movement may even boost your creativity. WalkTop Treadmill Desk (adjustable to fit most treadmills), $479, walktop.ca.
If you need to sit all day, the least you can do is perfect your posture and build your core while you do it. A stability cushion is slightly wobbly, so it requires you to engage your inner abdominal muscles for balance and use your back muscles to sit up straight. Whether you perch on the cushion for an hour or eight each day, your core will benefit from a little extra engagement. Stott Pilates Large Stability Cushion, $85.50, well.ca.
Wearable tech is making waves in the fitness world, and for good reason: When you have a physical reminder to move literally attached to your arm, it helps you carry your fitness goals into every area of your life—including the office. Wearing a fitness tracker can give you the initiative to take the stairs, go for a noon-hour walk or even just take more trips to the photocopier to get your daily steps in. Bands like the Fitbit let you chart your activity for the day, so you can see when you're sedentary and make a plan for improvement. Fitbit Flex, $100, fitbit.com.
Take our quiz to find what type of exercise you'll enjoy the most—that way, you'll never want to miss a workout!
The best workout for weight loss has nothing to do with which muscles you work or how many calories you burn; it's all about how much you love it. Nathalie Lacombe, director of membership and certification at Canfitpro, says 50 percent of people quit their exercise program within the first three months. The best predictor that you'll stick with it? Enjoyment. The pleasure principle is more important than seeing results, having a fitness buddy or anything else you've heard will make you adhere to your fitness plan. We designed a test to help you determine what workout will leave you wanting more.
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Principal ballet dancer Sonia Rodriguez depends on her body for support, whether she's rehearsing in the studio, performing onstage or playing with her kids. She shares her best advice for staying strong and healthy.
Maintain your muscles
As a dancer, Sonia needs strong muscles to perform challenging jumps, control her body during choreographed balances and support herself through all those pirouettes. And every woman needs strong muscles to protect our joints, fire up our metabolism and carry out daily tasks—but we naturally lose muscle as we age, so strength-training exercises (which use free weights, machines or a person's own body weight to develop muscle strength) are essential for maintenance. When Sonia is short on time, she pares her usual morning workout down to a plank, which works the core (key for good posture and balance) as well as the upper body and legs.
Keep your fitness goals small and achievable
Ballerinas spend hours a day working on their form and striving for perfection, but Sonia knows that perfection is achieved one detail at a time. "You can't improve everything at once; it's impossible," she says. "Look at small goals. That's how you make improvements." For Sonia, that might mean spending one rehearsal day focusing just on maintaining a strong supporting leg. For the rest of us, it might mean concentrating on proper breathing during yoga or engaging our core during strength training.
Strategize your snacking
Sonia fuels her workouts with balanced snacks. "I get very cranky and can't focus if I don't have snacks throughout the day," she says. The best way to avoid feeling "hangry" is to eat fibre- and protein-rich foods such as nuts, edamame or veggies and hummus, which are more satiating than simple carbs, and to prepare snacks to have on hand so you can eat before hunger interferes with your energy levels.
Stretch it out
The poses ballerinas are known for are achievable by only the most flexible athletes. Still, having a degree of flexibility is important for all of us; it will improve posture and reduce the risk of injury. The best time to do your stretches? After a workout. "Your muscles are warmed up, so you get more benefit out of the stretch and there's less chance of hurting yourself," says Sonia.
Try Sonia's one-legged plank: Starting on your knees, lower yourself onto your forearms and extend both legs behind you, planting your toes on the ground for support. With your shoulders over your elbows, your torso flat and your legs straight, lift one foot; hold the pose for as long as you can. Repeat with the opposite leg. Lifting one leg increases the difficulty by forcing your muscles to support more of your body weight.