Recent research has shown that prolonged sitting time is associated with increased risk for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, regardless of how active you are in your non-sitting time (Katzmarzyk et al 2010). These findings are disconcerting to those of us who toil away at office jobs that force us to sit for hours. Sitting time is suspected to be harmful not just because it decreases metabolism but also because of the lack of muscle activity in the lower limbs (Dunstan et al, 2012a). Interrupting periods of sitting even for just a minute or two has been shown to be very beneficial (Dunstan et al 2012b). An innovative solution to sitting time at work is the treadmill desk, but most people do not have the space (or funds!) to install a treadmill in their work station. We need other solutions and quick; our sedentary jobs are slowly eroding our health!
I propose another solution that is free, requires no equipment or large spaces, gets those lower limb juices flowing, and might just be the most fun you have all day.
The 8-Hour Workday Exercise Challenge
The 8-Hour Workday Exercise Challenge
The 8-hour Workday Exercise Challenge means devoting 1 minute each hour to a small amount of low impact physical activity, just enough to break up the sitting time.
About a year ago, in an effort to motivate ourselves to do abdominal exercise, Mike Bauman (@mbfgmike) and I started #PlankADay, a health challenge on Twitter that involves doing a 1-minute abdominal plank (see pic) once a day and tweeting it with the #PlankADay hashtag. A plank is a simple exercise that strengthens the core, abdominals, and legs. Over 4,000 people have joined us in this 1-minute exercise challenge. To break up work day sitting time, we took the daily plank to the next level and developed the Plank-An-Hour challenge, where you complete one plank every hour for 8 hours straight. Other hourly health challenges have been popping up on Twitter too—squats, pushups, lunges, you name it. These are quick, easy, no equipment necessary exercises that we all wish we did more of but have trouble fitting into our day. The hourly challenge forces you to pause during a busy day for 1 minute or less and do something active. Isn’t that what we all need to do during the day after all? Take pauses?
I challenge you to devote 1 minute (or even 15, 30 seconds) of every hour of the work day to a plank, a small set of pushups, squats, lunges, or any simple one move exercise. You don’t even need to be in the office, you could be home with the kids, running errands, or on a day off. While you could do an hourly exercise challenge on your own each day, social media adds the accountability and fun to it. Here are some tips on getting social with your workday exercise challenge.
How to Get Started? Join the #PlankADay Revolution on Twitter and follow Shannon Colavecchio a fitness instructor (@badassfitCEO) on Twitter who hosts a variety of challenges every week. Or, start your own hashtag challenge. Name your challenge and invite a few co-workers or Twitter followers to join or do it solo. Every time we have started a challenge spontaneously, a few followers have jumped on the band wagon. If you don’t have any followers interested in health and fitness, follow my Healthy List.
Start Small.If you are doing a new exercise in frequent repetitions throughout the day, make sure that each repetition is small and manageable.* The first rep should not feel like an effort at all, because you will notice as the day goes on, it will get increasingly challenging. Change the challenge from day-to-day to get a well-rounded workout.
Who Has the Time? When I do an hourly challenge I inevitably get asked, how do you have time to plank all day? 8 planks require 8 minutes. My life isn’t so harried that I don’t have 8 minutes to devote to offsetting my risk for disease. In fact, I find that short exercise breaks during the workday increase my productivity. The exercise also prevents that “hit the wall” feeling that I usually get in the afternoon, where I feel cross-eyed from staring at a computer, mentally tapped out from writing for hours on end, and antsy from sitting too long. You’ll be surprised how quickly the day flies by too.
Not a Fan of Social Media? Grab a few workmates and decide on a challenge to do together offline. You don’t have to use social media outlets to report to each other, you could use instant messaging, texts, emails, or dare I suggest good old-fashioned in-person conversation to report your progress to each other.
My Twitter Feed is for Professional Purposes Only. If you feel uncomfortable making exercise-related tweets on your main account, start a side account just for this purpose. You can even keep your account anonymous if you prefer. Use a phony name, location and a fun avatar. I don't know the real names or faces of a lot of people I tweet, it doesn't at all detract from the fun.
Make Your Exercise Minute Fun
Make Your Exercise Minute Fun. When we do planks together at work we try things like naming as many NFL teams, breakfast cereals, car models, kinds of fruit or pick your category as we can during the minute to pass the time more quickly. This game is always good for a laugh. The other day my co-worker shouted “tequila!” when we were on a roll naming car models. I guess it was one of those days! If you are by yourself, use the time to make a mental to-do list, pray, or meditate.
Unintended Side Effects. Beware that if you get hooked on office exercise challenges, you will notice strange side effects, including loosening pants waistlines, muscle tone, hysterical laughter, and bursts of energy and creativity. Proceed (or don’t) at your own risk.
Have suggestions for other ways to leverage social media for health and fitness? Share them in the comments.
*Always check with a physician before starting an exercise program.
Be sure to visit Dr. Pagoto at www.FUdiet.com.
Katzmarzyk, P.T., Church, T.S., Craig, C.L., Bouchard, C. (2009) Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(5), 998-1005.
Dunstan, D.W. et al (2012a). New exercise prescription: Don't just sit there, get up and move more, more often. Arch of Internal Medicine, 172(6), 500-501.
Dunstan, D.W. et al. (2012b). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces post-prandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5) 976-983.