by KAREN BURKE
Remember the 1985 film, Cocoon? The real Fountain of Youth is not in a swimming pool. The real Fountain of Youth is not plastic surgery or carrots and tomatoes either; and it is definitely not an office chair.
The real Fountain of Youth, the golden ticket to a healthy golden age, is movement. Whatever it takes to get moving is the illusive Fountain of Youth that will enhance health, vitality, and well-being. In other words, the key to living longer (and better) is sitting less!
Use it or lose itOur bodies must move, stretch, and exercise regularly. While we often think of exercise in terms of weight loss and muscle-building, the more important reason for exercising is to get out the toxins and rejuvenate the entire body. Regular exercise improves and tones the heart and muscles, and it is a great stress manager. Exercise has been shown to affect longevity, too, as it improves cognitive and mental function.
The big ways to exercise are well known (Ironman triathlon, anyone?); but for most of us, smaller steps, taken regularly, add up to better balance, better circulation, healthier lungs, and more endorphins for a happy, healthier lifestyle.
Steps to finding the Fountain of YouthThe Fountain of Youth is not in the Bermuda Triangle or in expensive infomercial skin treatments; it is within your reach no matter where you are, if you follow these steps.
1. Take breaks
Get up and walk! Don’t do the duck walk in your chair, walk to the printer, even if it’s only a few feet away. Eat lunch away from your desk, then walk outside (or around the office), even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes. Take in fresh air, and get your circulation flowing.
2. Take the stairs
Given the option of taking the elevator or taking the stairs, opt for the stairs to get your body moving and your heart pumping.
Given the option of parking close to the entrance or at the other end of the lot, opt for farther.
Whenever you have the option to move, choose it!
3. Set a time
By setting a time to move or change your posture, we establish a routine. So mark your calendar with an appointment to shake, move, run, spin, pump, play, jump, or stretch. Book it as your “Fountain of Youth” reservation, and don’t let other meetings overtake this “you” time. This set exercise time will get your blood pumping, your circulation moving, and your lungs working. My own “Fountain of Youth” time is the most important appointment on my daily agenda- it makes me a happier, nicer person.
4. Find the right tools
There are many types of devices in the workplace that encourage movement, so it’s important to find the right ones for you. Some are a little crazy and can create other physical and mental compensations (like the treadmill desk). There are some tools, like the balance board, that tracks your movement while working, or the fitness ball for sitting while getting an ab workout. I am always a proponent of saving these tools for your conference calls, meetings or during the hour break time to avoid the other ergonomic and functioning issues that occur from multi tasking while working at your computer
5. Avoid sitting
We sit too much. We sit in traffic (avoid it by standing on a commuter train). We sit in meetings (instead, have standing – or walking – meetings). We sit at our desks for hours on end.
A sit-stand desk is the most effective way to make the change to less sitting throughout the day. It offers lots of leg room, and you can easily shift from sitting to standing at your ideal height. To get your circulation flowing, vary your posture and your daily routine. Sit for 2 hours, then stand for 2 hours, sit for lunch and repeat. Getting an anti-fatigue mat under your feet encourages good circulation and will minimize the effects of standing on hard surfaces which supports the static posture syndromes. Always make sure you get the proper desk height for best results when sitting or standing: elbows should be level with wrists when on the keyboard.
There are also a number of sit-stand desk units that allow you to sit and stand. Selecting a unit that can go above and below your standard desk height will promote your best health. Whether you use single or dual monitors, here are 2 examples of sit-stand units: Best versatility, very reasonable, and remember, using a window ledge (north facing), file cabinet or counter tops are options for movement.
The Fountain of Youth is in the small actions we take that make a big difference to our vitality.