Sitting is making us sick
Sitting is making us sick. We know that too much sitting leads to huge increases in our risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Some health professionals have started calling sitting all day a “serious health hazard”.
Our bodies were made to move- to perform thousands of different movements through the day. In our developed economies we are more likely to do several thousand repetitions of movements with a few muscle groups while most of our muscles are still.
What can we do about this? Here are some exercises you can do at your desk that will reduce the risks from sitting at a desk all day.
Here’s an easy way to get moving. Walk to the lunchroom instead of eating at your desk. Pop by your colleague’s desk instead of emailing. Have a walking meeting instead of sitting in a boardroom. You’ll feel more productive and more refreshed once you get back to your desk.
Sit on an exercise ball
Work on your posture while at work. Feeling comfortable on the ball may take some work but the results are well worth it. Use it periodically throughout the day.
Take a stand
The key to standing at work- as in most things- is moderation. When I was doing ergonomics assessments for companies in Toronto, I would often recommend that people be able to alternate their time sitting and standing. Usually when you stand you are more likely to shift your weight causing your legs muscles to pump blood back to the heart. Standing still for hours on end is not a good idea. Being able to sit when you are tired is helpful as well.
Stand up when answering phone calls or reading emails. Even better, get a standing desk. You can even make your own for $22. If standing desks don’t work for you, try stretching your hip muscles and doing air squats. They are simpler than they sound! Treadmill desks are also a good option.
Dance at your desk
This is guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time. I often find myself both physically and mentally drained from hours at the computer. A simple and effective solution is putting some music on and letting yourself sway to the beat. It’s a stellar 3pm pick-up too.
This will get your blood moving. On certain days when I just don’t have time to head to the gym I will do this workout at home instead. Seven minutes will not make you a power athlete, but it certainly is much better than doing nothing at all. There is even an app to guide you through the workout.
Stretch for a break
Stretching is an easy way to add some physical movement to your day and improve the range of motion of our joints. Stretching is also just as refreshing. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Make sure not to ‘bounce’. Stretch until you feel a release, but don’t strain yourself to where it’s painful. This cheery infographic has a good list of stretches and I’ve included some below as well recommended by the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.
Upper arm stretch
- Lift one arm and bend it behind your head.
- Place your other hand on the bent elbow to help stretch your upper arm and shoulder.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat the stretch with the other arm.
Shrug the shoulders
- Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold.
- Release and drop. Repeat three times.
- Shake your head slowly, up and down, side to side.
Release the upper body with a torso twist
- Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left.
- With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch — see how far around the room you can peer.
- Slowly come back to facing forward.
- Repeat on the other side.
Look up to release upper body
- Sit up tall in your chair, or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers.
- Turn the palms to the ceiling as you lift your chin up, tilt your head back, and gaze up at the ceiling.
- Inhale, exhale, release.
My Bottom Line
The key is to stay moving. Add in movement in any way that fits your lifestyle. You’ll feel surprising more energetic with all that moving!