We live in an age of pure convenience; almost everything you could ever want is easy to access and utilize. Instead of planting your own garden, washing and cutting up your own food, you can buy pre-chopped veggies at the grocery store. Instead of walking up three flights of stairs, you can take the elevator. But is all this ease actually harming you?
According to Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of the book Movement Matters, humans have almost entirely outsourced necessary movement over the past ten thousand years. “We transitioned from a migratory, hunter-gathering population to living in sedentary farming communities, then industrialized nations, and then our current technology-based culture,” she says. “A moment on our phone can secure food, delivered right to the door. We can seek shelter on Craigslist from the comfort of our chairs. Heck, we can even find a mate online these days.”
The implication? Moving isn’t required to get what you want today. Bowman says Western culture especially prizes exercise over other types of movement, which could be a real setback in our overall health. “Exercisers are usually only moving for one or two hours a day, and then they’re sedentary before and after that single bout of movement,” she says. “If we look at those cultures with the lowest rates of heart disease, and those with the highest concentration of adults living to 100, they tend to not only move more minutes per day than most, they move more throughout each day.”
It’s a great case for moving more often—and it’s easier than you think, Bowman swears. Here are five simple ways you can add mini movements to your day for major rewards.
Add in Short Bouts of Walking
Short walks can be highly effective for maintaining motion. Think about little walks you can take as part of your daily routine. Instead of grabbing drive-through coffee or hitting a drive-through bank, park and walk inside. Instead of talking on your phone on the couch at home, pace while you chat. “You can also have walking meetings at work,” Bowman says. “Spending your days in an office doesn’t have to preclude getting more movement. How many times have you heard ‘take the stairs’ or ‘park farther away at the grocery store,’ and then don’t actually do it? These are such simple ways to feel better and move more.”
Need a nudge? Turn on Reminders to Move! If you have a Fitbit Flex 2, Fitbit Alta, Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Charge 2, or Fitbit Blaze, your tracker will vibrate at 10 minutes to every hour if you haven’t taken 250 steps in the last 50 minutes.
Reach Your Arms Up and Overhead
Bowman says that, in this tech-based culture, you probably just use your arms to type on your computer or smartphones—but they could be a neglected source of extra movement. Utilize those high kitchen cabinets or top shelves in your closet, for instance. “To move them more, and stretch your shoulders and chest at the same time, reach up to the top or sides of a doorway every time you walk through it,” she says. “Pause for a few seconds, and stretch these important muscles.”
Make Your Kitchen Less Convenient
When “your kitchen is full of electronic devices” and everything is an arm’s length away, you’re depriving yourself of key movement. “Start using your hands to knead bread dough, operate a can opener, and chop your veggies; if this sounds too easy, I recommend trying to whip meringue by hand, like our grandparents used to do, and see how tired your arms and hands get!” says Bowman suggests. “There’s recent research linking handgrip strength, as a surrogate measurement of overall strength, and mortality risk. Move dishes and ingredients you use daily to lower and higher cupboards to encourage daily bending, twisting, and reaching.”
Sit in Different Ways
It might sound way too simple, but try sitting on a stool instead of a chair with a back on it to encourage tiny, but important muscle-strengthening adjustments. “You can also scoot toward the front of your chair so you don’t use the backrest, sit on the floor, or stack cushions on the floor to sit on,” Bowman says. “This will encourage you to move your hips and knees through different angles each day.” Bowman’s movement bonus if you’re on the floor: “The extra work it takes you to get up and down counts towards keeping your body strong,” she explains.
Create a Dynamic Workspace
The office can be a hotbed of sedentary, non-activity—but you can build natural movement into your space by creating multiple work stations within a single area. “Don’t always sit in the same chair, but instead mix it up between soft and hard with varying heights,” Bowman explains. “Create an alternate workstation that allows you to stand at a table, or sit on a pillow on the floor to write letters or pay bills. If you’re working on the computer, try putting the screen or keyboard at a different height from usual, or making the whole thing a standing work station.” Create easy station shifts that function as opportunities for movement. Face it: It’s always nice to have a change of scenery, too!
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.