If you work in an office — or telecommute — your favorite chair may bear your bottom’s imprint. There’s no denying that modern lifestyles are more sedentary on average than our ancestors’ were.
However, you might have heard the saying, “sitting is the new smoking.” How bad is prolonged sitting on your overall health? How often should you stand up from your desk — and how can you get more movement in your workday?
Why Is Sitting Too Long Harmful?
The most apparent reason why sitting is harmful is that you remain sedentary. While it’s not true that you burn more calories sleeping than watching television, you’re not torching much fat.
As a comparison, you burn nearly three times as many calories per hour bowling than working on a computer, even though you spend most of your time waiting for your turn.
However, the dangers of sitting all day don’t begin and end with gaining unhealthy weight from inactivity.
Prolonged sitting can cause changes in your lumbar discs, which makes life miserable for patients with degenerative disc disease. The agony can get so intense that maintaining one position — such as when you must board an airplane — proves impossible. It can interfere with your career if your job demands long computer hours.
Finally, your muscles deteriorate in size and strength when you don’t use them. If you recently returned to the gym after COVID-19 shutdowns, you might notice you can’t lift as much as before. This atrophy can become severe if you don’t move your body, and you could find it more challenging to perform activities of daily living as you age.
Sitting may not be as bad for your health as smoking — but the long-term effects can nevertheless take a hefty toll on your career, pain levels and overall life quality.
How to Stand Up From Your Desk More Often
The news about the health hazards of sitting doesn’t sound too optimistic if you are an accountant or copywriter or another professional who puts in long desk hours. How can you stand up from your desk more often on the clock? Try these eight techniques.
1. Set a Timer
You can download apps like StandApp on your smartphone and program them to alert you at specified intervals. Scientists from Columbia University determined that one- to two-hour stretches of sitting increase your risk of early death. They recommend getting up every 30 minutes to stretch.
2. Grab a Drink
What’s as vital to your health as movement? Staying hydrated! If you have a reusable water bottle collection, fill up a bunch of smaller ones instead of your 40-ounce Big Gulp mug. That way, you have to get up and walk to the office break room for a new beverage instead of nursing one all morning.
3. Have a Ball
If you have lower back pain, sitting on an inflatable exercise ball instead of a chair can get you standing more — if only because you need to readjust your balance occasionally.
Try to use the device itself instead of one of the chair-like versions that hold it stable. Both ease lumbar tension, but only one gets you moving more often.
4. Try a Variable-Height Desk
If your HR department has it in the budget, request a variable-height desk. That way, you can transition between sitting and standing in seconds. Don’t despair if the recent shutdowns leave your organization budget-strapped. You can make do with a milk crate or empty printer paper boxes in a pinch.
5. Walk on Your Break
When you take your morning and afternoon 15-minute break, do you surf social media or plop down on the smoker’s bench? Instead, take a brisk walk. If the weather is pleasant, head outside for a mood boost. Stick to stair-climbing on rainy days.
6. Forget That Email
Why would you take 20 minutes to compose the perfect email to your supervisor when getting up and popping your head in her office can answer your question in seconds?
Whenever possible, get up and talk to the person you need to communicate with, directly, instead of using chat. You’ll boost productivity and move more often.
7. Raise Your Hand
Does your boss need someone to run to the office supply store for more ink? Is your break room out of coffee? Volunteer to run the errand to increase your movement quotient and look like a team player — win-win, baby.
8. Take the Stairs
You’ve heard the advice before — but if you want toned calves and thighs and a longer and healthier life, take the stairs. Besides, it’s safer than the elevator in the age of the novel coronavirus. Who wants to share a tiny, enclosed space with strangers?
How Often Should You Stand Up From Your Desk? Probably More Than You Do
You should probably stand up from your desk more frequently than you currently do. But starting today, you can use the tips above to get your body moving and your blood flowing, and increase your life expectancy!