According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, not only is sitting for long periods of time uncomfortable, but it can take years off your life. Researchers have found that those who live sedentary lifestyles are more likely to develop certain cancers as well as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
However, the truth behind these stories isn’t that sitting at your desk is more likely to shorten your life. Rather, the lack of physical activity involved in your workday is what increases these potential health risks. Fortunately, with the right planning and the right attitude, you can help improve your activity levels even while working at a computer.
Plan Your Moves
One of the trickiest parts of staying active at the office is the tendency to procrastinate. You get comfortable in your chair and you have your coffee, drinks and snacks within arms reach. There’s no motivation to get up and go do something active! You have to make a plan and stick to it. Consider doing the following to keep your physical productivity in mind:
- Sit with good posture. Sitting with good posture will help your spine stay in alignment. Additionally, it can help to give you a physical cue to take a break once you begin to tire and hunch over.
- Switch out your chair for a stability ball. Sitting on a stability ball for short periods of time will challenge and improve your sense of balance. Keep one by your desk for a visual cue to take a break when you’re in a slump.
- Set a timer. The Pomodoro Technique suggests working in time blocks of 25 minutes with a five-minute break in between each time block. After four time blocks have passed, take a longer break between 15 to 20 minutes.
- Dress to move. Wear clothing that’s made from flexible fabrics. You don’t have to go full on spandex! It’s no longer difficult to find Lycra blends that are completely office appropriate. If you have no idea how to put an outfit together that’s both office appropriate and conducive to bending and stretching, look for a clothing retailer that offers a free personal shopping service. There are plenty of them out there.
- Meditate. While this may seem counterintuitive, meditation not only reduces your stress and anxiety, it’s energizing and improves your focus–which will help you achieve your fitness goals.
Bend, Stretch, Move!
These fairly simple yoga stretches will refresh you and get the kinks out of your hips, neck, wrists, shoulders, and back.
- Forward Bend:Sit up straight and tall and take a big, deep breath, then exhale as you fold forward. While resting your torso on your thighs, take five to 10 deep breaths. When exiting the post, place your hands on your knees and slowly roll the spine up.
- Boat Pose:Sit tall in your chair; reach hands forward as you pull your feet toward you. Hold your toes, tilt yourself back and let the chair back support you, which will fully extend your spine. While you hold this pose, breath deep for five to 10 breaths.
- Quad Stretch:Sit to the side edge of the chair. Lift your outside leg, bend your leg and hold your foot with your knee dropping toward the floor which will stretch your thigh, knee and ankle. While you’re holding this pose, it’s important to engage your abdominal muscles so that you don’t pull on your lower back. Breath deep for five to 10 breaths.
- Extended Side Angle:Sit sideways on your chair, keep the leg that’s on the chair bent while you extend your outside leg. Take a deep breath and exhale forward to place your front arm on your leg for support and swing your back arm forward for a complete stretch. Take five to ten deep breaths.
- Half Moon: Stand in front of the chair, bend forward and place your hands on the chair seat. Stand on one leg and lift the other leg with a flexed foot. Lift the same arm as the flexed foot, and rotate toward that side of the room.
Take a Walk
Anytime you get up and move is an improvement upon slumping in your desk chair. But if you up your speed and intensity, you’ll get a cardio workout. If you have steps in your building, take them at a fast clip–two at time at. Take a brisk walk outside even if you only have a short break. Every activity burst counts!
Lead a Walking Meeting
Walking meetings are an efficient way to exercise while getting your work done. You’ll need to plan this out before you invite your colleagues. Read How to do Walking Meetings Right for guidance.
Many of these “deskercise” moves are high intensity and people will notice! A more quiet or conservative office might frown upon employees doing split squat jumps at their desks. Perhaps you can find a secluded area or vacant conference room and invite some of your office mates to join you.
No More Excuses
You’ll have to be the judge of the level of activity you can do in your office, but make sure you’re not talking yourself out of it with lame excuses. Very few offices, if any, require employees to dress like the office workers of the “Mad Men” era. And many employers are inclined to support fitness activities because they recognize that fit and healthy employees reduce medical costs boost productivity and profits. Keeping active while working in a sedentary office may seem difficult at first, but with the right mindset, preparation and figuring out the techniques that work for you, you’ll be able to stay active and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting.