Fighting the Pandemic

As COVID-19 ravages the globe, one thing is for certain- we need to fight it on our feet.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds. As a health behaviour researcher at Western, I help people to develop action plans to reduce their sitting. Because we are so used to sitting everywhere, all the time, we typically don't mention sitting when describing activities we are doing. For example, we think of watching TV, not sitting down and watching TV.

It's difficult enough to change a habit or behaviour when you know it's happening. Things get harder when you also consider that nearly every environment is designed for sitting: couches, chairs, cars, offices, etc.

However, there are things we can do to make 'sitting less' easier. Here are some practical strategies that I've found to be useful for my participants to leave you in 'good standing':

  • Shape your environment: Just like being physically active is easier with the right equipment, modifying your space for standing and moving will make it easier to do so. This can be done by stacking some books for a standing desk or creating a route to pace in the house while on chatting on your phone.    

  • Remind yourself you're sitting: Because sitting is so habitual for most of us, we often need a reminder to break it up. Setting an alarm for every 30 minutes before sitting down, or simply putting a sticky note on your computer screen or desk of when you sat down can be a useful prompt to get up more often.

  • Pair it up: A break from sitting isn't necessarily a break from what you're doing, such as working or watching TV. But if standing/moving distracts you from your task, then pair it with another healthy behaviour like drinking more water. Getting up to drink water will break up your sitting time, as will going to the washroom more often as a result. Plus, you'll get all the benefits of drinking more water too.

  • Go the distance: When it comes to breaking up sitting time, the more frequent the breaks, the better. Incidental movement—the moving we do while going about our day such as doing laundry or the steps we take while walking around our home—is an easy way to break up sitting time. Try tracking your steps, and setting a step goal (aim for 2,000 more this week!) to help you monitor your progress.

  • Tell a friend: Keeping accountable with a housemate or friend can help keep you motivated. Most smartphones have a built-in activity tracker that can track your steps, with apps available to share this data with your social network. Competing for steps with a friend can put the 'health' in 'healthy competition!'

  • Purchase Harmoni: COVID-19 is the black swan event that nobody could have predicted, but we don’t have to take the novel Coronavirus sitting down. Now, it’s even more vital to shield your body against harmful diseases that might weaken your immune system against COVID-19. Sitting all day hurts your body, and makes you an easy target for the virus. Don’t be a sitting duck. Switching to a sitting desk can literally be a lifesaving move.

 

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