How to Keep Your Desk Job From Hurting Your Health
October 15, 2016
Wayyy back in the day, movement was a way of life for everyone. Hunters and gatherers were constantly moving about to put food on the table, and those back home were staying active with the daily chores necessary to keeping a household in order. It wasn’t considered “exercise”; it was simply what naturally happened for survival.
These days, things are a little (or a lot) different. So many of us spend the majority of our days sitting in front of a computer, working with our minds as our bodies sit idly by, waiting to know when it’ll be their turn. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years of our bodies slowly declining in strength, mobility, and flexibility due to underuse.
In fact, the World Health Organization now lists inactivity as the fourth biggest killer of adults. Studies have shown that people who spend long hours at a desk job are at an increased risk of type II diabetes, various kinds of cancer, and developing dementia, just to name a few. And as it turns out, even regular exercisers won't escape the side effects of sitting at a desk all day long.
Thankfully, you don’t have to quit your desk job to become a professional athlete in order to turn things around. There are a ton of simple things you can do throughout the day to reverse the negative impacts of a sedentary job.
The single most important act you can do is simply stand up more. “If you can stand up every 20 minutes, even if you do nothing else, you change how your body responds physiologically," says Gretchen Reynolds, author of the “Phys Ed” column in the New York Times,”You start using the big muscles in your legs, which helps break up fat in your bloodstream [and] decreases your chances of getting diabetes and heart disease.”
While standing up regularly might seem simple enough, it’s easy to forget. So here are a few quick and dirty tips to get more standin’, movin’, and groovin’ into a day at the office:
- Rather than send an internal email, head to your coworker’s office to deliver that message in person. Not only will it make your body happy, but studies suggest it’ll increase your overall happiness and productivity on the job as well.
- Use a small, refillable cup for water and get up to refill it each time it’s gone. It’s two birds with one healthy, hydrating stone: you’ll be giving your body the movement it needs all the while fueling it with the energy-enhancing, skin-clearing benefits of H2O.
- Park farther away—this goes for the office, the grocery store, and anywhere else you often find yourself. It might not seem like much, but you’d be surprised how much those extra steps add up in just a week’s time.
- Forgo the elevator in favor of the stairs. Stairs are a quick and easy way to get in a little cardio each day while you workout the vital muscles of your legs. Take it a step further by recruiting a co-worker to join you on a stair-climbing break each day. Brief exercise breaks are actually more effective than caffeine at combatting that 3 pm slump.
- Opt to sit on a stability ball rather than a chair—this will keep your core muscles engaged while it improves your balance and flexibility. Plus, it’s fun to bounce on!
- Walk and talk. Rather than take calls from your desk or have every meeting be a sit-down, use these times as opportunities to go for a stroll. In addition to improving your fitness, walks have also been shown to boost creativity, so they’re a great way to get the most out of your meetings.
- Finally, set a standing alarm on your phone to go off every 30-60 minutes. Use it to give your body AND brain a break from the monotony. (Bonus points if you set the alarm to the tune of Funky Town and do a little desk dance.)
While moving on the job may not come as naturally as it did in prehistoric times, there are a whole bunch of small moves you can make to yield big results.
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