Millions of us have jobs that keep us sitting at a desk all week long, week after week after week. Without even realizing it, we are sitting at that desk more than we are doing pretty much anything during our waking hours. While we may be making a living, research shows that we may actually be harming our health in the process. In fact, Harvard Medical School reports that all the sitting and inactivity could send us to an early grave, it puts us at an increased risk for a variety of health problems, and that’s even with those who still get in up to an hour per day of exercise. We may not be able to change our career, but there are plenty of things we can do to try and counter the damage from so much sitting and inactivity throughout the day.
“There are some jobs where sitting for long periods is just a part of it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it to increase your activity level,” explains Coach Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc., who is also the strength and conditioning coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. “Even small amounts of activity here and there throughout the day will help to counter all the sitting, so it’s important to make an effort every day to keep moving as much as possible.”
The National Institutes of Health reports that all the sitting, whether at a desk or in front of a television, can lead to health problems. All the sitting leads to burning fewer calories, losing muscle strength and endurance, slowing down the metabolism, poor blood circulation, hormone imbalances, and increased inflammation. Increased health risks of so much inactivity include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Here are some tips for getting more activity into your day to help counter the health hazards of a desk job:
- Move every hour. Make a point to get up and move around for a few minutes out of every hour. Whether you set a timer to remind you or you do it on the hour, get up and stretch, squat, move around, and get the blood flowing again. Take this time to go ask people questions or deliver information, rather than sending those items in an email.
- Consider your route to work. Depending on how far away you work from home and what the climate may be, you could opt for biking or walking to work. This will help you get more exercise in before sitting for so many hours. If you live too far away, perhaps you can find a parking lot a couple of miles away from your destination where you can park the car and then walk or bike from there each day.
- Plan lunchtime fitness breaks. Use your lunch break as a way to get up and get moving. You can do a workout routine on your own, or start a lunch exercise club and get others involved. Have a routine of some exercises you can do to get the blood moving. You can also use that time for a power walk outdoors.
- Look for ways to increase movement. Talk to others at your job who may also want to increase the amount of movement you all experience at work. Look for ways that you can be more active, such as taking the stairs, standing during meetings, having a brainstorming session with co-workers while taking a walk, or adding a treadmill to your office so you can walk on it while you take phone calls. Get creative as you seek ways that will get you up and moving more throughout the day.
- Have a workout routine outside the office. It’s important to also maintain having a healthy workout routine when you are not work. This isn’t going to completely counter sitting at desk so much, but it’s going to help a lot. Work with a personal trainer to create a program tailored to meet your needs and that you can easily stick to.
- Hold yourself accountable. It may seem that getting up once every hour for five minutes won’t make a difference, but it will. All of that time adds up and helps to keep you being more active. Make the commitment to find ways to be more active during your day, even while at work, so that you can counter the health risks of having a desk job.
“Many people fear they are going to get into some trouble if they try to be more active at their desk job,” added Coach Walls. “The truth is that you are in trouble if you don’t try to be more active in your desk job. Your health is the most important thing, so take steps to protect it, even if you do have a job that has you sitting 40 hours per week.”