The 30-Minute Rule: How To Overcome Sedentary Behaviour at Work

Posted July 4, 2019, by Jenny Sakr

We’ve all heard it/ read it before. Sitting for too long can put you on the fast track to an unhealthy and unhappy body. It’s simple when you sit for a long time you have less energy and you put your body in compromising positions that can have serious long-term effects, these include obesity; high blood sugar, poor muscle tone and heart disease. It’s no wonder they say sitting is the new smoking!

You may think you can play catch up by hitting the gym before or after work, or opting to walk home, which is all great, but is it enough?  A study by Annals of Internal Medicine has shown that sitting more than 90 minutes uninterrupted increases our risk of early death two-fold. The solution? Sit less, move more. In fact, you should get moving every 30 minutes to be exact! Might sound simple enough for some, not so much for others. Follow our simple guidelines and get moving more in your workplace. 

Break Every 30 Minutes

The study suggests that people who sit a lot should get up and move around every 30 minutes to counter the health risks that come with prolonged sedentary behaviour. A great majority (if not all) office tasks involve sitting in a meeting room or at your computer which would mean taking a break every 30 minutes difficult. It’s easy to let a couple of hours go by without you having moved off your seat. The key here is to get your colleagues on board. Not only will this mean you have each other for motivation, but everyone will understand when you have to interrupt the meeting for a couple of minutes to get up and stretch and do a couple of laps around the table. 

Obesity expert, Dr James A Levine states, “if you’re sitting too much, you need to do something about it … Unless you get moving now, you’re in trouble later. Even if you’re a gymgoer and think you’re safe on account of your excellent effort, you are not. No one gets away from this stuff. … Excess sitting, this study seems to suggest, is a death sentence.”

The more the merrier

As mentioned above, you should definitely work on getting your colleagues on board. The 30-minute rule needs a consolidated effort and solid support from coworkers and employers to ensure that everybody lives a long and healthy life. If the risk of early death isn’t enough to convince them then at least it’s a great bonding experience. 

Make time in your calendar 

Regularly schedule your deskercises! Make time for at least two 5-minute deskercise sessions per day (one mid-morning and the other mid-afternoon) with your colleagues.

Tip: Take turns leading the sessions or chose an exercise each to mix it up each day. 

If you can’t sit, stand! 

Ensure your workspace is ergonomic and if feasible includes a stand-up desk. Cutting down on your sitting time from a regular six hours to three hours can add years to your life expectancy. The benefits of a stand-up desk don’t stop there. A standing desk can also do wonders for your waistline; improve your posture and strengthen your back, and keep the blood flowing which in turns boosts energy levels. Winning! 

Take the road less taken

A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that sedentary behaviour on average accounted for approximately 12.3 hours of a 16-hour waking day. WOW! Think about it, Netflix binge-watching, long lazy Sunday lunches, we are sit-aholics! 

Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, stand and chat with co-workers rather than sending an email or rolling your chair over and when at home, get up during tv commercials or pause mid-way during your programme and do a couple of laps around the living room. Basically, do anything you can to use your chair less.  These small swaps can make a world of difference in the long run. 

Count your steps 

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do – it’s easy and doesn’t require a huge amount of determination to achieve a lot. Add a step counter to your phone, or wear a smartwatch or Fitbit to keep track of your steps and help you reach a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps. Try setting it to beep or vibrate every 30 minutes as a gentle reminder for you to get up and get moving. 

Diet counts

Sedentary behaviour is bad – we know this. When we sit our muscles are not moving and when muscles are not moving, metabolites – especially fats – are not cleared from our bloodstream as quickly. 

What we consume before, during and after the long sedentary period either contributes to our wellbeing or to our disadvantage.  Turn to healthier food and snack options that’ll not only benefit your waistline but can do wonders for your brain power and bodily functions. 

It’s never too late

We’re not saying that you have a get up every 30 minutes and go for a jog around the block, but know that a simple 1 to 2 minutes walk or stretch every 30 minutes while at work, studying or watching TV can work wonders for your wellbeing. Adopt these few simple tips and feel your energy levels increase and your mind become clearer. 

If you’ve got a zest for life then you want to do everything you can to live a long and healthy one. Adopt the 30-minute rule and you’ll be on the right track!

Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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