The amount of time you spend exercising has a direct relationship to brain health. Exercise pumps oxygen and other nutrients to the brain, keeping your brain healthy. But if you exercise for 30 minutes a day and sit the rest of the day, is exercise enough?
What should you do when you’re not exercising? First of all, you should spend 7-8 hours getting restorative sleep to keep your cognitive function. So what should you do with the other 15-ish hours in your day? It’s up to you how you spend your time, but if you can move while doing it, you’ll be protecting your brain from cognitive decline.
Too much sitting, also called a “sedentary lifestyle” by healthcare professionals, is considered a health hazard. One study compared the cardiovascular health of bus drivers to postal workers. Guess who came out ahead? The people who walked most of the day delivering your mail.
Researchers think it’s possible to undo the benefits of exercise if you sit most of the day. So what should you do if your job requires you to be sitting or sedentary most of the day? A few small changes can make a big difference.
Work from a standing desk or bar top
Use hand weights at your desk while you’re thinking
Set a timer once an hour to make a lap around your office
Take a 5 minute break once an hour to stand, stretch and touch your toes
If you drop something, squat to pick it up instead of bending over
Adopt a dog (you’ll get in an extra two walks a day)
Get off the bus or train one stop early and get in some extra steps
Encourage your coworkers to stand and stretch during meetings
Luckily, moving your body can be addictive. It feels so good to move and stretch throughout your day that once you integrate these behaviors, they are likely to become habits that stick.