When trying to break up sedentary time, author Joan Vernikos advises focusing on frequency. "Standing up often is what seems to matter," she says. "Every time you stand up, the body initiates a shift in fluids, volume, and hormones, and causes muscles to contract. And almost every nerve in the body is stimulated."
In addition to a range of physical perks, activity breaks also boost brain power and confidence. "The overarching finding is that with just a little bit of effort, we can avert some of the problems that come with sitting and also have some immediate positive benefits," says UCLA's Toni Yancey, who wrote Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.
Use these rules of thumbs to get started: Don't do sitting what you can do standing or walking. And take back some of the labor you've assigned to all those labor-saving technologies. Experts suggest the following:
•Fold clothes or iron while watching TV; walk around the house during commercial breaks.
• Stand up when you read the morning paper.
• Don't sit down when dressing and undressing.
• Walk around while checking text and E-mail messages.
•Clean your car by hand instead of using a drive-through car wash.
•Grab a rake to gather up leaves instead of using a leaf blower.
•Try hanging your wash on a line instead of using a dryer.
•Drink more water. Going to the water cooler and restroom will break up sitting time.
•Take a break from your computer and stand at least every 30 minutes.
•Stand during meetings, while taking phone calls, or during teleconferences.
•Use the stairs when possible.
•Skip the phone and go talk to your colleagues in person.
•Use a height-adjustable desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing.
•Use a stability ball instead of a desk chair when you do sit. Sitting on a ball requires you to engage your body's core muscles to stay balanced and upright.
•Encourage your company to create a more movement-oriented environment, from placing printers farther away from desks to locating employee parking lots farther from the building entrance.
•At takeout restaurants, skip the drive-through window and walk in to get your food.
•Use public transportation, and walk to and from bus stops or subway and train stations. Stand on the subway, and consider getting off a stop early.
•Walk or cycle at least part of the way to your destination, or park your car in a distant spot.