Have you heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking”? It’s a pretty shocking claim, isn’t it? When I shared a story recently about how many days I workout each week, I received some questions about desk jobs — people asking me what they can do to “offset” being still all day.
It’s true that sitting all day is not beneficial for our health. There is evidence of an association between excessive levels of sedentary behavior and negative health outcomes such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
So what can be done? A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that 30 to 40 minutes of mild to vigorous physical activity every day appears to reduce the association between sedentary time and risk of death.
Park at the back of the parking lot. Take the stairs. These things sound simplistic, almost silly. But when you’re moving so little during the day, the little actions you take will add up! Here are some other habits you can build into your work day.
Set an alarm to move once an hour — even if it’s just to get up and walk around your office or house. Go talk to a co-worker in person, fill up your water glass, or use the bathroom on the other end of the building. Find a set of stairs to climb up and back down. Do a few squats or lunges next to your desk. Stretch your hip flexors, neck, and back — three areas that get especially stiff for desk workers.
Ask co-workers if they’d be willing to try “walking meetings” (works best for one-on-one). Or if you have a phone call, try throwing in your earbuds and taking your call while walking.
And don’t skip your lunch break! Try not to eat at your desk if you can help it, and snag a few of those minutes for a walk.
I don’t like people to get hung up on their fit watches. But if you’re a numbers person, 10 minutes of walking is about a ½ mile or 1000 steps. If you can do that every hour or two (or even a couple times a day), that’s a really solid goal!
It’s also important to take your posture into consideration. To change bad habits it can take hundreds to thousands of repetitions. Whether these bad habits are due to having never been cued or muscle imbalances, it is your job to create healthy postures during daily activity (like standing, squatting to pick up a child, holding a car seat, etc.) and exercise.
Ask around at your company about ergonomics. Some companies have resources to help you create a proper desk setup. It’s in their best interest to keep you healthy and pain free!
Here’s a rundown of good seated posture:
The option to change positions throughout the day is helpful. Look into purchasing or creating a standing desk. You could even try kneeling or squatting while you work. You could also try sitting on an exercise ball to encourage core strength and good posture (just be sure to get the proper size, so you maintain the 90-degree angles I discussed above). With these alternate positions, it takes some time to build up muscular endurance, so don’t expect to switch full time overnight. Try it an hour at a time.