Sitting too much is killing us all.
We’re sitting an average of 9.3 hours a day, and this lack of activity has been linked to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. We’re getting heavier and sicker just by having full-time office jobs. Is there any way to stay fit at work?
However, there are ways that you can be fit and keep your job. We spoke with productivity experts and personal trainers about how you can stay in shape while at work. Here’s their advice.
Traditional desks are seen as part of the problem of America’s addiction to sitting. Instead, many people are opting for alternatives like a treadmill desk.
Kayla Goldwag, a personal trainer in Los Angeles, likes treadmill desks because they’re pre-programmed to go at a slower pace than normal treadmills.
“The idea with these pieces of equipment is that sitting is the new smoking and that some movement is better than being stationary, and that’s true up to a point,” she says. “So if getting 10,000 steps in at a slow steady pace in this manner helps you move more, burn some calories, and you can get your work done, why not?”
Carrie Schmitz, the manager of ergonomic research and technical publications for standing desk manufacturer Ergotron says you can use exercise desks as long as they don’t overtax your body.
“If you engage in hard physical labor, you might be more likely to sit later and not exercise as much at another time,” she says. “That’s important because it’s low-level activity that people need to replace sedentary activity.”
By using a desk that adjusts between standing and sitting, you can eliminate some of those deadly sitting hours, but still relax when you need it.
“It’s best to work at a standing desk and take time to go to the gym at the end of the day or on a long walk or jog during your lunch hour,” says John Brubaker, a productivity coach in Maine. “You need to be present with whatever physical activity you’re doing.”
Along with keeping you active, the standing desk can help you with your concentration. According to ADHD and ADD strategist and productivity coach Susan Lasky, movement is critical for those who have issues with focusing.
“While many people with ADHD are highly active and are natural candidates for a standing desk, there are others who are not as physically active and might not gravitate towards a standing desk, but would probably benefit from having one,” Lasky says.
Let’s say you don’t want to or can’t change your desk. Instead, you could team up with your whole office and exercise together during work hours.
“Accountability and motivation by competition helps some of us get moving,” says Goldwag.
She recommends organizing lunch break walks, or participating in the burpee challenge. This means that you all do a set of 10 burpees at the top of every hour before lunch.
“You can all get on MyFitnessPal and log it when completed and award the winner of consistency with a salad for lunch or something,” she says.
Brubaker says that if you have a meeting, don’t take it sitting down. Instead, schedule it so that you’re walking around the block with your meeting partner.
Susan Rose, who coaches business and sales professionals, says that she walks around her office while doing work.
“When I am on the phone with coaching clients, I both stand and sit so I can take notes,” she says. “When I do group conference calls, I always stand and walk with my notes in hand. It helps me stay alert and I project better on the phone.”
Alternate sitting and standing
Leila Harper, a personal trainer in Los Angeles, says that it’s best to get a standing desk and then switch between standing and sitting on a stability ball.
According to Schmitz, the most effective way to utilize the standing desk is to sit for 30 minutes, and then stand for 30, and so on.
“It’s that movement between postures that’s getting your metabolism going,” she says.
The effects of sitting are proven to be harmful, however, not everybody is convinced. Even if it takes baby steps, it’s important to pursue changing your sitting routine at work.
“We have these habits that are so deeply ingrained that even when we hear about the fact that sitting is bad, we don’t change our behavior easily or readily,” says Brubaker. “Anything that gets you moving, we ought to embrace it.”
Photo: Juhan Sonin