- Dr. Brian Kleinberg
5 Steps to Avoid the Damage of Long-term Sitting
What I find surprising when I go to corporate offices to talk about the perils of sitting is the fact that most people are simply not aware of the risk of long-term sitting. Most office workers stay in one position for too long and take infrequent breaks. The physical and mental strain continues to build day after day. The health risks are numerous. The good news is that there are some very basic activities that you can do every day to reduce the stress on your body and your mind. Here are five things you can do right away:
1) Take a Break
Take a one-minute break once or twice an hour: Change your position, align your posture, stand and take a short walk. This will allow you to refresh your body and reduce the constant strain joints, muscles and organs. Some people tell me they’re reluctant to do this because they’re caught up with their work and their employer will not be happy that they’re taking so many breaks. The truth is taking a break from your work will actually improve your productivity by reducing mental and physical stress on your system. The break will allow you to reset your body posture and enhance your breathing. As a result, you will become more productive even though you are actually minimally reducing the amount of time that you are working. Try it!
2) Stretch and Move at Every Break
At every one-minute break, get up and move around: If you can discipline yourself to take a break from your computer screen, then take advantage of this time to do some basic stretching of your spine and your upper and lower limbs. There are many resources that you can find online to learn how to do this. Along with stretching at your desk, you should also get up from your chair and walk around the office to stretch your legs and improve circulation. Think of yourself as sitting on an eight-hour flight. You’ve probably heard about the dangers of developing blood clots while sitting on an airplane for many hours and the advice is to move periodically at work to improve your circulation. Use the same approach in your office and your heart and circulation will be much happier with you!
3) Take the Stairs
If you work in an office building and, for example, you are on the 10th floor, you have a perfect opportunity to improve your stamina on a daily basis by taking the stairs up and down. Stair climbing will improve your cardiovascular performance, strengthen your legs and help you burn calories. If you’ve never tried this before, start by getting off at the floor below, as in our example that would be the ninth floor, and climb up one flight for the week. The next week get off at the eighth floor and so forth. Within time you will notice a great improvement and feel more energy!
4) Try a Wearable
Wearable technologies such as Fitbits have become very popular incentive tools to get people to move more in the workplace. Wearable technology not only measures the number of steps that you take, but it can also give you daily feedback on calories burned, your heart rate and your sleep patterns. There is an app on your computer or mobile device which will give you information through the day. The fun thing about wearables like Fitbit is the ability to compete with your co-workers so that you can motivate each other to become more active through the day. The recommended number for daily steps is 10,000 which is approximately 5 miles or 8 km. If you are not in the market to spend money on more expensive wearables, then simply invest in a pedometer or use available apps on your mobile device and measure your steps. The most important thing is to get moving while you’re at work.
5) Stand Up While You Work
It is recommended that you try to stand at least 25 to 50% of your workday. Try to take your phone calls or other work tasks in a standing position. Try to have walking or standing meetings. While you are standing, do a posture check and make sure that you’re not slumping, and your head is positioned above your trunk and not in front of it. To achieve more standing time during the day there are different solutions which I have recommended to my patients and corporate clients. One is the Varidesk which can convert your current desk to a standing desk in just moments. You could also ask your employer if they would be willing to change your desk completely to a height adjustable desk and there are numerous solutions available today. One thing is for sure: I do not recommend either extreme of sitting or standing all day as both of these long-term postures can be harmful for your health in the long run. I usually tell my patients/clients to try and mix it up as much as possible.
Movement is the Key!!
There are many other options that office workers, drivers and other professionals are utilizing to reduce the harmful stresses on their body as a result of sitting for long hours. You could save yourself a lot of pain and long-term injuries by investigating options or trying some of the suggestions I have recommended above. While at work, keep moving your body!