By now we all know that most people in this modern world simply do not move enough. Inactivity levels are at an all time high with increased hours at desk jobs, sitting in the car during rush hour traffic, and couch lounging to relax after a long day of work. People were meant to move around all day, not just sit around to become immobile statues!
All this sitting and inactivity is really bad for your body and overall health in the long run. One of the more obvious downsides of sitting all day is that it increases your likelihood of putting on weight because of decreased caloric expenditure. Your body simply adapts to whatever demands are put on it and when nothing is demanded of it than it becomes quite inefficient.
You may be saying that you can’t help the fact that your current job requires you to sit at a desk staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Heck, some days I’m guilty of the same! The key to adding more movement to your life is by adding short activity breaks scattered throughout the day. Physical activity research has shown that intermittent standing, walking, and other activity breaks throughout a work day can increase overall caloric expenditure and help relieve muscle tightness caused by sitting. Examples of how to add movement into your work day include:
- When you arrive to work park in a spot further away from the entrance
- Walk to a coworker’s office to talk to them instead of sending them an email or instant message.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator to get around your office building.
- In between work tasks walk a lap or two around your level of the office building before starting another work task. This can help break up the monotony of the work day.
- Perform desk stretches every hour to hour and a half.
- Set aside at least 10 minutes of your lunch break to walk at a brisk pace outside.
- Suggest to have walking meetings instead of sitting down in a conference room.
- Make sure you at least stand up from your desk about every 20 – 45 minutes to stretch out the muscles that become tight from sitting.
When you sit for long periods of time the muscles known as the hip flexors are in a constant state of contraction from being in a shortened scrunched position. This leads to tight hip muscles and decreased mobility of the hip joints. Also, in a seated position the glutes and hamstrings become very weak, which in turn can lead to low back pain. Just sitting for long periods of time obviously negatively affects the the lower body, but then you add in the fact that you are probably hunched over typing on a keyboard and staring at a computer screen. Your shoulders round and your neck protrudes forward when you are working on your computer. Excessive hunching can eventually create a postural deviation known as forward head position. For all these reasons it is very important to focus on good posture and getting up to move around as much as possible throughout the day!
It is understandable that on some days when you are swamped with desk work that it can be difficult to take frequent activity breaks but my suggestion would be that you make the most of a not so pleasant situation. What I mean by that is that if at all possible try standing at your desk. If your work allows it maybe you can request a standing desk that elevates and lowers depending on if you want to sit or stand while you work. You can even turn your desk into a makeshift standing desk by using a step stool for your monitor, mouse, and keyboard. One of my coworkers simply bought a wooden step stool that she used to elevate her computer, which I thought was a brilliant idea! The step stool went on the desk where she placed the monitor on the top step, and the mouse and keyboard together on the bottom step. This allowed her to stand to do her work while being in great postural alignment. I plan on getting myself a wooden step stool so I can also stand and be productive throughout the work day. My coworker’s step stool standing desk idea is like what is pictured below:
Another great idea for your desk is to replace your desk’s plain old swivel chair with a super awesome stability ball. It’s purposefully called a stability ball because you have to actively engage your core muscles the entire time you sit on it to keep your spine in a stable position and to keep your body in overall good postural alignment. Since you have to actively keep yourself balanced on the ball while working you are actually burning more calories than you would while sitting in a normal chair. If you are interested in switching your normal chair out for a stability ball I would recommend getting the correct size ball for your height so that you are not sitting too low to the ground or too high. Also, make sure the ball is inflated to the correct circumference so that it doesn’t compress too much when you sit on it.
Although just because you’re sitting or even bouncing your work day away on a stability ball does not mean you should give up your activity breaks. Standing and walking around is still way better than sitting even if you are on a ball. The picture below shows a properly sized stability ball for this woman working at a desk, and notice how she keeps a neutral spine without hunching over at the shoulders:
I hope you found these ideas and movements suitable for work! Starting next week make sure to take intermittent activity breaks throughout your work days and let me know if you decide to try out the standing desk idea or use a stability ball as your chair. As always, keep making efforts to move every day and to live Happily Ever Healthy!