Death by desk chair?
It’s something I and every other office job worker do for a good 8 hours per day, and in case you haven’t heard the news, researchers figure it’s gonna kill us. According to the American Journal of Epidemology, sitting for 6 hours per day or longer significantly increases the likelihood that a person will die early, even if they hit the gym regularly before or after work. Another study found that if you sit for fewer than 3 hours per day, you can actually increase your lifespan by up to 2 years, and others have linked excessive sitting with higher risks of heart disease, strokes, metabolic syndrome, and yes, bigger butts.
To quote this article, researchers suggest that “reducing sedentary behaviours such as sitting and television viewing may have the potential to increase life expectancy”. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t exactly sound like rocket science to me. It makes sense that the more active you are and the more you let your body move the way it was intended to do, the healthier you’ll be. But what about people (myself included) whose jobs require a backside glued to an office chair from 9-5 (at least), 5 days per week?
This has been a topic of discussion amongst myself and some friends lately, and ever since I read A.J Jacobs’ Drop Dead Healthy, I’ve been fantasizing about getting a treadmill desk. Yep, call me nerdy, but I really do want one! Outside of work, I lead a lifestyle that’s more active than a lot of people I know, but most of that activity takes place before the sun rises. Reading that even every-day gym goers can’t escape the inevitable effects of sitting too long made me think more about ways to be active during the work day.
Coincidentally, this issue seemed to arise in the lives of other bloggers around the same time that it came up in my social circles. One of my favourite blogs for holistic living and mindfulness is Zen Habits, written by Leo Babauta. In his recent post “Limit Screen Time, Limit Sitting“, he talks about how our lives constantly revolve around looking at screens – iPhone screens, tablet screens, TV screens, computer screens… you get the point. Leo suggests setting limits, which not only encourage less sitting, but also help us to think about the best use of our time. He describes that he sets a limit of 4-5 hours of computer time per day, and manages it in 30 minute chunks. As a result, he and his family enjoy more time together, and more time moving as opposed to sitting.
Leo figures that rather than succumbing to a sedentary sit-all-day type of lifestyle, instead “we should live less as victims and more consciously“, and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, I know it’s often not practical to only sit in front of a computer for 4 hours, especially if you work in the corporate world. If I told my boss that I’d chosen to implement a 4 hour limit, I’m pretty sure I’d lose my job!
So how am I limiting sitting?
None of these ideas are particularly genius, but they’re working for me these days. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
1. A less-conventional chair
Firstly, I’ve elected to sit on this piece of apparatus at work:
That’s the Gaiam Balance Ball chair, which cost me about $135 via Gaiam.ca. It was on backorder for quite a while but when I eventually received it, the assembly was very quick and easy and I’m still happy with my purchase 2 months later. In addition to a pump and instructions, it also came with a lovely little booklet of exercises that can be done on the chair.
2. Water breaks and walks
All of the seated exercises in the world can’t beat occasionally getting up and going for a walk. I like to have mini water drinking competitions with myself each day where I try to drink more before lunch or in a specified period of time than I did the day before. Doing so means I need to get up frequently to 1) fill my water bottle, and 2) go to the bathroom. While this can be rather annoying at times, it also ensures that I’m not sitting in the same position for too long.
3. Mini workouts
Next, I like to regularly get up from said Gaiam chair and do mini workouts in my office. Now, I by no means have a big office. Working out in my little windowless space kind of reminds me of the exercise studies they do on mice to prove hypotheses about fitness in humans. These aren’t sweaty workouts that I do, but just little bits of movement every hour or so. A set of 20 pushups here, a 2 minute plank there. Apart from having a bar for chinups mounted to the doorway, the only think I wish is that more people would do these exercises so I wouldn’t be so scared about what they’d think if they walk past and see me. (Hasn’t happened yet, but I know it’s bound to one of these days.)
Occasionally I take my mini workouts outside of my
cage office to the kitchen. While I wait for the microwave or the kettle, I’ll either do a standing hip flexor stretch…
A quadriceps stretch…
Or (and this one is lots of fun, especially if you like self-inflicted challenges because you can try to set new records each time) the wall sit.
If this one gets easy, you can always try a single-legged version!
4. Get out during lunch
Ahhhh fresh air!! There’s nothing better than breathing it in after sitting in an over-air conditioned office all day. I am a much happier girl when I can get out over lunch, whether it’s to run errands, pop over to David’s Tea for the tea of the day, or (if it’s winter) run home to snap some quick pics of a recipe since evening light is terrible for photography. (Yes, I do it.)
If you’re looking for more examples, this Huffington Post slideshow also has some ideas. One is active meetings, which essentially means having meetings with others in person or over the phone while walking outside. I love this idea! However, it would be a difficult one to do if your meetings involve computer screen sharing with colleagues in other offices, as mine do about 90% of the time. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a great idea if you can make it work. I like to stand up during conference calls or walk around my office – it’s like multitasking but paying attention at the same time!
So tell me…
- What are some ways that you stay active during the work day?
- All this business about life expectancy, lengthening, and shortening… do you believe it?
- Of possible interest…. This very old post that I wrote has more ideas for at-work exercises.
Have a fantastic Tuesday!