Sitting is the new smoking, we’re often told.
It not only takes a toll on our joints and backs, sitting has been linked to heart problems, weight gain and early death. And even if we exercise 30 minutes a day, it may not be enough to offset the risks of sitting, research has found. But what’s an office worker to do? (thinking of our Administrative Professionals, particularly today).
Prolonged sitting is simply a fact of life: we sit for eight hours on the job, then sit again on our commutes, then sit again at home.
But there are a few ways office workers can stay active even if they’re chained to a desk.
- If you have to sit, do it right
The first tip for office workers is to set up an ergonomically sound workstation, with the chair set in the right position.
When you’re sitting at your desk you want to make sure your thighs are parallel with the floor, your knees are at 90 degrees and you’re sitting all the way back in your chair.
Your feet should be flat on the floor in this position, not tucked under your chair, so if they’re not, use a footrest so your feet don’t dangle.
Adjust the height of your seat back to ensure the lumbar support of the chair is in the small of your lower back, to support the curve in your spine.
Avoid the “poking chin” posture of leaning forward to read your monitor, as this causes tension in the neck and shoulders.
If you find yourself doing this a lot, you may be having trouble reading the screen.
Move the monitor closer, or increase the font size of your documents.
We should try to not sit any longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a time, so if you have trouble remembering to get up and move, set an alarm on your desk or phone.
Sure, there are lots ways to exercise in an office, but if you’re in an open-concept space, it can feel odd doing desk pushups and squats with everyone watching.
Instead, find subtle to ways to move and activate your muscles without causing a scene.
Incorporate more movement into your day
Desk exercises are great, but what’s even better is incorporating standing and movement into your work day.
Last year, British public health experts issued recommendations saying that all office workers should stand or walk for at least two hours a day, to help ward off the dangers of prolonged sitting.
Standing for hours isn’t great for your muscles or back either, so find a way to do a little of each all day — sit while typing, but stand while taking calls, for example.
Incorporate movement into your workday by:
- walking down the hall to speak to a colleague instead of emailing them
- keeping your lunch and snacks in the kitchen so you have to walk to get them
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- walking on all escalators, rather than standing
- choosing the furthest parking spot if you drive to work
- getting off one stop early if you take transit