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Opinion: Lunch break adventures make for healthier living

Adventures in Ink

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An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

It’s Newton’s first law of motion.

For office workers, the negative “unbalanced force” is the desk.

Movement and outdoor exposure is vital for numerous physiological processes including, but not limited to, muscle effectiveness, lymphatic circulation for immunity, proper vitamin C intake and posture affecting the skeletal system. It also has important psychological health implications. A study by Stanford University found those who don’t often venture into nature are 20 percent more likely to develop anxiety and 40 percent more likely to develop a mood disorder.

Physical activity, particularly physical activity in nature, is vital.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a health ratio of activity consists of 69 percent of the day standing or walking. However, according to a study by the British Psychological Society, published in Science Daily, people spend an average of nearly six hours a day at their desk. Additionally, the study found 70 percent of employees don’t meet recommended guidelines for physical activity – which is not a surprising statistic when you consider the majority of their day is behind a desk concealed indoors.

It’s just bad news all around. And it gets worse.

According to a study published in the journal Live Science, people who sat for eight hours a day and exercised less than 5 minutes a day had a 59 percent increased chance of early death. Those who sat for eight hours a day but who exercise for about 35 minutes had an approximate 30 percent increased risk.

However, those who exercised one hour or more every day eliminated the risks.

That’s where lunch break comes into play.

It’s not a cure-all, but it is one hour in the middle of the workday that does provide a way to combat the damaging effects of office life. Coupled with a regular workout regimen in the gym or at home, it can be life changing. Depending on where you’re located in the Queen City, you’re sure to find something to do that will exercise your muscles, pump oxygen through your system and get some much-needed sunlight – something that can be done in one hour and send you back to the office feeling refreshed.

To get you started, here are a few ideas:

• Walking: City parks, greenway trails, the Conservation Nature Center – there are options scattered throughout the city to walk. Walking is also arguably more effective than jogging, because it’s not so high impact on joints.

• Disc golf: A quick internet search for “disc golf courses in Springfield” reaps numerous results throughout the city. Find a course closest to you, and challenge co-workers to a quick game or play solo. The bedroom communities of Republic, Ozark and Nixa also have quality disc golf courses.

• Biking: Bring a change of clothes and head to a local trail system, such as those maintained by Ozark Greenways. You can make it as leisurely or difficult as you want by simply adjusting the bike gears.

• Marble hunting: People all over the Ozarks have lost their marbles. Literally. There are entire local social media groups dedicated to marble hunting. Participants hide often-handcrafted marbles in random locations with a photo and a few clues for hunters to see who can track down the marble first. Often hunts will go for weeks with people participating as time allows – like an hour on lunch break.

Even if you don’t have a full hour to spend on an adventure, just eating lunch outside or going for a brief walk is better than nothing. When the weather is warm, my lunch break ritual usually consists of eating a sandwich at Park Central Square and then going for a walk around downtown. Other times, I’ll bring a change of clothes and walk or jog around the nearby neighborhoods.

It’s tempting to transfer from a desk chair to a table chair and eat lunch while browsing social media, reading a book or chatting with co-workers. But science shows office life is not what’s best for the human body or psyche. And although it’s not ideal, it is the world we live in. So it’s our responsibility to take ownership of our own health and do things to improve our quality of life.

Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Hanna Smith can be reached at hsmith@sbj.net.

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