Sitting has been called “The New Smoking.” Studies warn that even if you manage to fit in a workout, it probably won’t negate the effects of an entire career spent sitting, which include:
- feeling generally yucky, bored and unable to concentrate (my expert observation).
- greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and early death.
- slower metabolism, higher blood sugar, higher insulin levels, and higher blood pressure.
- back problems and headaches.
- increased risk of depression, particularly for women.
My So-Called Office Life
I’ve been desk-bound for much of my life, thanks to office-style jobs, combined with lengthy commutes, plus a few hours of TV watching sprinkled in here and there. I refuse to take road-trip vacations, because the idea of being stuck in a car for hours at a time sounds too much like being stuck at a desk.
I first experimented with sitting on an exercise ball chair in the name of better posture and a more activated core, and I agree with this assessment that these chairs might even be worse than regular desk chairs. I may expend more energy sitting on a ball chair, but I still manage to slouch. I’m trying to find a better option and might try a kneeling desk next.
I also tried creating my own makeshift standing desk, which seemed liberating at first, but eventually left me even more sapped of energy than a regular sitting desk. Despite the official recommendation of the AMA that workplaces make standing desks available to workers, standing desks aren’t the solution either, because they still involve standing still for the whole day.
Sitting Isn’t The Real Problem
The real problem isn’t whether we should be sitting or standing; the problem is whether we’re moving or not. And far too many of us are not moving enough.
Even when we do manage to squeeze in a workout at night, there’s a chance that an otherwise sedentary day makes the workout counterproductive, according to biomechanist Katy Bowman. Her book, Move Your DNA, suggests that exercise is not what’s good for us; movement throughout the day is what’s best for our body.
Our bodies are not meant to sit (or stand) still all day. Fighting the inertia of the stationary work day is key to better health and a longer life.
5 Tips for Moving More at Work
Here are a few ideas for fighting the evils of a stationary workday, without shelling out a ton of cash for a fancy treadmill desk or other such contraption:
- Drink plenty of water. You’ll need to get up often to use the bathroom.
- Fidget as much as possible. Tap your toes, move your legs under your desk, shake out your wrists. Move your body every chance you get.
- Set a timer to remind you to get up and move around every half an hour or so. I bought a 30-minute hourglass which sits on my desk looking pretty. I turn it over when I sit down and when I notice the sand has run out, I stand up for a minute or two. The beauty of using an hourglass is that there’s nothing annoying beeping at me when the 30 minutes is up. If I’m focused on some important task, it doesn’t interrupt me. It just waits for me to notice that I’m due for a break.
- Go talk to a co-worker, rather than sending yet another email. Your work relationships will improve and you’ll be able to focus better when you get back to your desk.
- Move your phone to a spot on your desk that forces you to get up to reach it, then stay standing while you use it. If you don’t use the phone much, move your mobile phone out of reach so you have to get up to see who just texted you.
Get as much movement into your day as possible and your body will thank you in the short term with increased energy, better mood, even increased productivity. You’ll also enjoy a healthier life for the long haul if you make movement your M.O.
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments for fitting in more motion into your day!
Time to Move On?
Since you are an energetic being as well as a physical one, if you’re feeling like your life is stuck and not allowing you enough freedom, take stock of how much “room to move” you currently have – physically as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. A general claustrophobic malaise might be a sign that it’s time to consider some bigger changes. Sometimes you just have to wake your brain up to new possibilities (speaking from experience here). Chronic pain such as frequent migraines or carpal tunnel syndrome can also be a sign from your body’s innate wisdom that you’re in the wrong job.