Reading this at a desk? Perhaps you’ve been there for a few hours already? Here’s some facts to make you leap out of your chair (in a good way!).
It turns out spending our days at a desk is not only robbing us of our vitality, it’s slowly but surely killing us.
If you think that sounds alarming (it is!) and you don’t have time to look at the mounds of scientific studies piling up on this topic, then here’s the lowdown: Sitting for long hours each day leads to weight gain, puts you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and can take years off your life.
Think you have it covered by all those after hours gym sessions? Wrong. Even if you are active, working out or running daily, the effects of sitting still take their toll.
So what’s a humble office worker to do?
The only solution is to move. Regularly.
This bit might sound simple. But the trick is to actually remember to move. If you’ve been sitting around for years that might take a bit of focus. Installing a stand up desk is one great option that is taking off in a big way. But substituting sitting with standing all day is not the answer either.
Installing some new habits at work and at home, along with a mix of standing and sitting to do computer based work should do the trick. Thankfully this actions below are free to implement and will not only enhance your life expectancy. Making the move off the chair at work will also improve your productivity, connection to colleagues, mood and your energy levels. Here are a few ideas.
Ditch the email
Email can be an amazing tool for communication. Sadly sorting out an overflowing inbox is bane of most workdays. Make life easier for you and your colleagues by limiting the number of emails you send and opting for face to face conversations as part of your regular work habits. It’s far more powerful to pop down to someone’s desk and go through an issue face to face than send a lengthy email that might get missed. You’ll need to observe basic office etiquette so as to ensure productive chats are not perceived as unscheduled interruptions. Hopefully the improved outcomes and reduced inbox anxiety will convince those you regularly collaborate to welcome your more active style.
Take the stairs
You don’t need to go from ground level to the tenth floor in a single bound – but taking the stairs instead of the lift will add some much needed movement to your day. Incidental exercise is the key here. Adopt any habit that gets you moving and that can built into your regular routine. Offer to go see colleagues at the other end of your office or on other floors – they’ll love that you come to them. And build in a walk to your regular tea and coffee breaks. One trick is to only have a glass for water on your desk. If you have to get up to go and refill it for your 8 glasses a day you’ll be on the move more often.
Meetings to go
Forget flat white to go, why not take your next meeting to go? The forward thinking IT team in my organisation years ago, used to do what they called ‘blockies’; a walk and talk team meeting that took place around a circuit that ran along the edge of the lake near our offices. Meeting on the move can and should still involve an agenda, but this format will ensure everyone is alert. You ‘ll also shift your focus and bring new perspectives to issues you’ve been tussling with. And by walking side by side there is an opportunity to air things more easily than when sitting opposite your colleague in a stuffy meeting room. It won’t work for all types of meeting but its worth transforming your more regular weekly meetings into this format.
Stand up desk
Having an adjustable stand up desk is an ideal addition if you’re about to outfit your next office. The benefits of being able to spend periods sitting and standing will help keep you on your toes. You’ll need to check the ergonomics – how you sit and stand – to ensure you don’t get aches and pains from poor posture. A pair of flat shoes under the desk is a good option here too. If you can’t afford a special purposed desk (or desk treadmill) there are simpler options, like setting up a reading post on top of a bookcase or shelf. When you have reports or information you need to get across standing at this station (use a prop to get your reading material at the right level) will give you some stand up time at the office without needing to opt for expensive new equipment.
Desk-friendly workout routines are everywhere. Some don’t even require getting up – but don’t be shy about those that do. Stretching your arms above your head, some chair twists, flexing and pointing your toes can be incorporated into even the heaviest periods of concentrated work. Having an exercise ball on hand in your office is a great way to keep core muscles engaged but not so much that it gets distracting. It’s as simple as setting a timer on your smart phone or downloading one of the many fitness apps suggest that help you stretch and adjust your posture at 30 to 60 minute intervals. My personal favourite Take a Yoga Break gives you three email reminders a day with a series of yoga based exercises to get the blood flowing.
See what clever ways you can come up with to add some movement and colour to your day. Your colleagues might stare at first but they’ll be following along before long!