From head to toe, our bodies adapt to accommodate our devices.
The majority of American workers spend most of every weekday sitting and staring at screens.
We have therefore put ourselves in the midst of a slow-moving health crisis marked by alarming rates of early diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).
What’s more, at the end of most days – although this is not the preferred medical terminology – we just feel like crap.
Many of us ignore the nagging, buzzing reminders of our smartwatches to get up and get moving.
Others work before going to our desks, mistakenly assuming that a morning sweat makes up for the hours of sitting to come.
And then there are the disciples of the standing desk, which unfortunately does not fix our irregular levels of blood sugar and lipids (fats).
Having established to indicate the minimum amount of movement necessary to compensate for the damage of our sedentary life, researchers from the Medical Center of the University of Columbia in the United States found that five minutes of gentle walking every half hour makes the trick
It’s easy to do if you’re in a controlled study at a Columbia exercise lab, where a clinician taps you on the shoulder every 30 minutes and leads you from your laptop to a treadmill set at two miles per hour (3, 2 kilometers per hour). ).
But what about in the real world?
Is it possible to add regular movement breaks to our deadline days?
Sure, we might be able to tolerate the exercise, but what about the interruptions?
In real life
That’s what we tried to find out over three weeks this fall with an unusual project: We asked listeners of National Public Radio (NPR) to join a study conducted by the same Columbia researchers to see if they could incorporate regular movement breaks or “snacks” into their day and reinforce why they might…or might not.
READ ALSO: Can’t find 30 minutes to exercise? Try a “fitness snack” instead.
More than 20,000 people signed up (almost crashing the system).
Here’s what we found out:
> Movement breaks also improve mental health
Participants were in a better mood on the days they took exercise breaks, reporting more positive emotions and fewer negative feelings.
They also felt more energized, reporting an average reduction of 25% in fatigue.
READ ALSO: Work through those mental health symptoms by working
> The breaks did not harm work performance
Participants reported feeling more engaged in their work and showed slight improvements in the quantity and quality of work on the days they took movement breaks.
> But making time for frequent breaks is difficult
Many participants struggled to take movement breaks from their daily routine every half hour.
Only half said they were able to take exercise breaks that often.
Commonly mentioned obstacles were the pressure to be productive at work, feeling too busy to take a break, and concerns about disrupting the cultural norms of the workplace.
Participants found that taking movement breaks every hour or two was more realistic and less disruptive to their daily lives, with 70% to 80% of participants reporting taking regular breaks at these intervals.
However, feeling too busy and the pressures of work were still regularly reported as barriers even to these less frequent breaks.
Our findings show that public interest and research participation are critical to identifying barriers to movement breakdowns and developing real-world solutions.
But we hope that this project has also accelerated a broader conversation about a cultural reset – one that should be a collective effort.
We should not accept to sacrifice our overall mental and physical well-being just because society has come to regard constant sitting as the norm.
Now that everyone knows that sitting too much is bad, what if it was acceptable to stand in the middle of an endless Zoom meeting and shuffle side to side?
Instead of admonishing kids about their screen time, what if you asked them if they had their “walk time” every day?
We used to take smoke breaks, and these days, few of us bat an eye if someone in a meeting is looking at their phone.
Behaviors, good and bad, are often contagious, but we need workplaces and schools to be collaborators willing to make time and space for movement.
Our institutions need to encourage everyone who wants to change their relationship with their chair and devices.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that if we stay this sedentary, nearly 500 million people will develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes or other non-communicable diseases this decade, costing governments US$27 billion (RM126 billion) annually .
Just as importantly, we condone the disembodied way so many of us live now, denying the next generation the simple joy of feeling strong, healthy and mobile. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service
Manoush Zomorodi is the host of NPR TED radio time and its creator Electric Body series. Keith Diaz is an associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and director of the Exercise Testing Laboratory at the Columbia Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health.
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