Sitting at work is a modern invention. Up to about 200 years ago, sedentary activities were primarily reserved only for persons of high standing like pharaohs, emperors and kings. The human being moved in the course of work, stood still or squatted. Only about 50 years ago did hours of sitting become part of daily life at work … a development that has taken our bodies off guard.
We move too little and sit too much. Even that well-meant bit of sport in our free time in the evenings and at weekends does not always effectively compensate hours of sitting at the desk or in front of a PC. Research has shown that exercising for 30 minutes per day isn’t enough to offset a typical office worker’s level of inactivity. In the course of a working life we spend about 80,000 hours sitting. Global studies show, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some results estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day.
So what’s the result of all this sitting? Chronic back pain, slipped disks, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more have all been linked to being sedentary for too long during the day. One 2012 analysis, that looked at the findings from 18 studies, found that those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least.
That’s why businesses around the globe, which are focused on health & wellbeing, have zeroed in on helping their workers incorporate movement into their workday. Studies show, the key to using movement to improve your health, is to make sure you do it frequently throughout the day.
Here are five ways you can incorporate movement into your work day to improve your overall health:
- Get up and stand every 15 minutes: The act of standing up from a seated position has been found particularly effective at counteracting the detrimental health effects of sitting. Stretching your muscles once an hour brings blood flow back to all your extremities increasing the oxygen in your body. Think you can’t get up because you are just too busy? Just set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you.
- Buy a chair built for motion: Get active while sitting at your desk with an active office chair, like the Swopper or Muvman. These chairs offer three dimensions of motion i.e. vertical bounce, lateral sway and forward tilt – all simultaneously and intuitively. Eight hours a day on a Swopper chair can deliver more motion than you would get on a bike ride or a hike at the weekend, with the added benefit of doing it while you work.
- Make your office set-up slightly inconvenient. Take that printer off your desk and put it in the back of the office. While you’re at it, request the desk farthest from the kitchen. Or do some lunges on the way back to picking up your very important papers. In a world of convenience, making things slightly inconvenient in terms of proximity can provide ample opportunities to move throughout the day
- Create walking meetings. Next time you have a one-on-one scheduled with a coworker, suggest doing the meeting while walking around the building or better yet, outside. You’ll benefit from the increased blood flow, circulation and vitamin D.
- Stretch at your desk. When we sit, our muscles become tight, sore and tense. Stand several times a day at your desk and complete the following five stretches to give your muscles a much needed break from sitting:
Standing Neck Stretch: Hold for 20 seconds on each side.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Round your shoulders, then pull them back and pull down. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.
Standing Hip Stretch: Holding on to your desk, cross your left leg over your right thigh and "sit down" by bending your right leg. Repeat on the other side.
Open Chest Stretch: Sit near the edge of a chair and interlace your fingers behind you, with your palms facing your back. Leaning slightly forward, lift your arms and rest them on the back of the chair. Inhale and lift your chest. Exhale and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
Side Lunge: Starting with your feet together, take a step sideways, and bend down as if you're about to sit. Use your arms for balance by reaching out in front of you. Return to starting position.
Finding ways to incorporate movement into your workday can help offset the physical and health hazards sitting for long periods of time can bring. If you work an office job, making a conscious effort to focus on movement, posture and exercise is one of the most effective ways to ensure your job isn’t hurting your health and well-being.