Ask the Expert: Tim Sitt on living healthy behind your desk
We all know sitting is the new smoking, but many of us continue to lead dangerously sedentary lifestyles. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to incorporate more movement into our workday. Author, personal trainer, and therapist Tim Sitt joined our Ask the Expert session on Tuesday to explain how to get moving more – even if you have a desk job. He also outlined the many benefits to exercising and stretching, including better focus, increased energy, and improved overall health. Tim is the author of Move or Die: How the sedentary life is killing us and how movement not exercise can save us. He teaches people and organizations to prioritize physical and mental health, and his ThinkMOVE program can benefit almost anyone living and working a typical sedentary culture.
Here are the highlights from our webchat with Tim. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous and confidential.
Making movement a habit
QUESTION — “I need some kind of reminder to get up and move. I find the hours pass so quickly that before I know it I have been sitting for 3 hours. What do you suggest?”
Tim Sitt — “It sounds like you’ll need an external trigger to help remind you to get up. There are apps for web browsers that have timers and notifications. You can simply use your timer on your phone. You can enlist help from your co-workers and agree that at 10am and 3pm you’ll do a stretch break together. You can also develop internal triggers such as every time you feel thirsty, you will get up walk to the water cooler and drink. Or every time the phone rings, you’ll get up. You can also use emotional states as a trigger: every time I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know I need to take a movement break. Start with two strategies and add progressively.”
QUESTION — “We all know what we should be doing regarding exercise, healthy eating, etc. What tips do you have to break bad habits and prioritize wellness?”
Tim Sitt — “This a great point. Knowing is not enough. I would say the number one suggestion is to think about what you want to do as an important way of loving and caring for yourself. Imagine you are responsible for you, and you want to take care of yourself so you can live a long, healthy life and be there for others who you care for. Whenever people try to implement a healthy habit without addressing underlying negative attitudes towards self, it doesn’t work. Prioritize yourself and see that you are just as important as others.”
Squeezing in exercise when space is limited
QUESTION — “I work in a call center environment. We don’t have sit/stand desks. We can’t do stretch breaks or group activities. What do you suggest?”
Tim Sitt — “That’s really too bad that there isn’t a culture of health and the ability to move your body freely. First, if possible, I would try to share some of the literature around the impact of sitting on health, and the positive benefits of movement on focus and work productivity. On your own, I have two suggestions: 1. The washroom is a space where you can incorporate some movement. 2. There are stealth moves you can do, such as stretching out your legs while sitting. Also tensing your legs while sitting can increase blood flow to the largest muscles in your body, your thighs. I know it’s very little, but something. Good luck!”
The link between physical wellness and mental health
QUESTION — “Maybe not everyone is like this, but I find I’m almost always in a better mood after stretching/exercising. Why is that?”
Tim Sitt — “Exercising and stretching do several important things: stretching helps relax and release tension that is built up over a day of work stress, sitting all day, etc. Exercise, anything that gets the heart pumping, helps stimulate all the major systems of the body: heart, digestive, respiratory, hormonal. Physical activity is part of normal maintenance of the body and helps the body process and replenish new cells. From a mood perspective, increased blood flow stimulates the prefrontal cortex, which is involved with focus, learning and creativity. Studies have shown exercise to be as effective as medication for depression and anxiety.”
Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!
If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Tim Sitt, you can always sign into your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log in March 20 at noon EST to chat with parenting expert Julie Freedman Smith. She’ll be answering questions about raising teens in a digital world. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us.
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Also published on Medium.