Opinion: Get out of that chair

We’re slightly more than three weeks into the new year, a time when one’s resolve to keep New Year’s resolutions typically starts to waiver.

For many, exercising more is on the agenda for 2013. Of course, finding time to hit the gym or regularly participate in a sport can be difficult. But office workers may want think about exercise in different terms – new research from the medical community suggests sitting behind a desk for six hours a day could actually be killing us!

Medically speaking, spending too much time in a chair results in the shutting down of electrical activity in leg muscles. The body effectively stops burning calories, muscles get less efficient, enzymes that break down fat decreases and HDL cholesterol production declines while and the risk of diabetes increases.

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But it’s not just muscles that suffer – the brain does, too.

While that three-pound mass of jelly between the ears represents less than two per cent of the average body mass, pound for pound it’s the biggest consumer of energy in the body and requires a reasonably effective cardiovascular system to support it.

As cardiovascular efficiency drops, so does the efficiency and focus of the brain. In his book Brain Rules, biologist John Medina notes that those who exercise regularly consistently outperform couch potatoes in tests measuring long-term memory, reasoning, attention and problem solving.

These are tough times for businesses, and entrepreneurs need every advantage they can get. This is why exercise must become an essential part of one’s weekly routine. This doesn’t have to be onerous or overly time consuming. Just get out of the chair and move more.

Even if you can’t make it to the gym for a regular workout, you can still become more active by interrupting your sitting time with a few simple tactics:

Never phone someone in your own office: Get up and walk over to see them. This will reduce your sitting time, and increase your moving time. Additionally, I’ve always found face-to-face meetings much more productive than phone calls.

Use the office building as your gym: Use a restroom, copier, printer, coffee machine or conference room on another floor, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s amazing how much you can increase your physical activity and break up your sitting by doing this whenever you can.

Hold walking meetings: I used to hold a regular update meeting with one of the other vice-presidents in the organization while walking to and from our local Starbucks for coffee. In addition to the exercise benefits, the conversation would tend to go further and cover more topics than it did when we met in a conference room.

Take thinking walks: When I was stumped on something, or especially when planning, I found I could frequently get the answer by simply bundling up (a necessity here in Canada), and taking a walk to think things through. I found I can focus better, and was simply more creative than when sitting in my office.

Park in the furthest parking spot: You can add a few minutes exercise to your daily total just by picking a parking spot away from where you are going whether that’s at the office, a client meeting or lunchtime shopping. Plus it’s easier to find parking.

The brain works better when the body is moving as the heart is pumping stronger and providing the brain with more fuel and oxygen. This helps one focus and become more creative.

Take a look at your own work environment and find ways to get out of your chair and moving more. It will help you feel better, make you smarter, and help you become a better entrepreneur.

David Lynch is the founder of The Fios Group.

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