To sit or to stand, that seems to be the most pressing workplace topic these days. Health experts have condemned prolonged sitting to the same circle of hell as smoking. This may not be hyperbole; our biggest muscles (our buttocks) are being squished between the weight of our body and the seat of a chair—these powerful muscles were made for action not cushioning and the consequences of prolonged sitting include back pain, weakness in the legs, sluggish metabolism, stiffness and achiness. A sedentary lifestyle tends to go hand in hand with weight gain, obesity, and metabolic diseases just to name a few. Having a desk job makes overcoming sedentary habits difficult and the jury is still out on the solution to this particular conundrum.
One of the recent trends to counter the sedentary workplace are standing workstations, yet beware, this may not be the cure. You can buy or make a workstation that allows you to be on the computer or the phone while standing or pacing. The idea is that while standing, you fidget more and are more likely to move around. While this posture may require slightly more energy than sitting, it is hard on your legs and back. A study recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology condemns stationary postures altogether by sayingthe health risk associated with sitting “indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself. Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.” So, sitting isn’t good and standing in one place isn’t so hot either. What’s the answer?
The optimal approach is to add movement to your day, throughout your day.
I have spoken to numerous people who have successfully added exercise to their 8-hour cubicle-bound job and, at the end of the day, they had less stiffness than their coworkers, they were better able to maintain a healthy weight, and seemed to have fewer incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure. They seemed also to have a clearer head.
Here are some ideas to add movement to your usual routine:
- Stretch every 30 minutes—while sitting, hands overhead, feet out long take a few deep breathes to get the blood moving again.
- Take the stairs whenever the opportunity presents itself.
- Stand at your desk and do a few deep knee bends.
- Use a restroom that is further away than the one you would normally use.
- Bring a tennis ball to work and periodically take off your shoes, roll the ball across the bottoms of your feet. Depending on your desk, no one will know.
- Walk the long way to your car at the end of the day.
Think about setting a timer either on your phone or computer to remind yourself to move around a little, at least once every hour if not more often. Your body will thank you.
Virginia Eaton is the owner of Oakhurst wellness center Class: The Body Pastiche