How To Fight The Negative Effects Of Sitting At A Desk
It’s bad news for us desk workers. The jury’s in on the effects of sitting for extended periods of time (well, it’s been in for a while now). And the verdict isn’t good.
Turns out, to cut a long story short, that sitting down for hours at a time can be incredibly bad for our health. And considering that many adults in the UK spend more than 7 hours a day sitting, it seems like this is an issue that concerns a lot of us.
The issues of sitting are addressed in the following Ted Talk, which is well worth a watch if this subject is of interest to you:
But it’s not all bad. In fact, it turns out that keeping active and exercising may be able to offset the negative effects of sitting. And there are lots of little things we can do throughout the day to reduce the impact of all that sitting and slouching.
But before we go any further, let’s deal with the basics: how to sit correctly. Here’s how the NHS says we should do it:
– Adjust your chair: the ideal position is for your arms to make L-shapes, with your elbows tucked in to your sides. This means forearms level with the ground.
– Foot position: rest your feet on the floor, and try to avoid crossing your legs.
– Keep your screen at eye level: the ideal position, according to the NHS, is to have your screen about an arm’s distance in front of your face, with the top of the screen at eye level.
There’s also this excellent video which outlines some common desk-dwelling problems:
So that’s how to sit. Now here are some quick fix, off-chair, techniques for reducing the effects of sitting through those 8-hour desk sessions.
Take regular breaks
Set a timer for every 30, 40, or 60 minutes, and when it goes off, get up! You don’t have to do much, and you don’t have to go far. Just spend a few minutes on your feet. Make a cup of tea, walk around the room, go to the bathroom. As long as you’re moving, it’s fine.
Mix up your tasks
The mantra is: if you don’t need to do it sitting down, then try it standing up. Take a phone call on your feet, for example, or try a walking meeting. And instead of typing out an email on your laptop or desktop computer, why not stand up and write it on your phone? Little adjustments like this can make a big difference.
Walk your lunch off
If you’ve got any spare time left after eating your lunch, try heading out for a quick stroll (don’t worry, it’s safe to walk after eating, despite what the old wives’ tales say).
Consider investing in a standing desk
The best way to combat the effects of sitting all day is, simply, not to sit at all. If you’ve got the space, consider investing in a standing desk. You can see a list of recommended models here. Or, if you’re feeling handy, you can make one yourself. Or, for the slightly more adventurous, you can even try your hand at a treadmill desk.
Refill your cup
Why not kill two birds with one stone? Reduce your sitting time and keep hydrated. The NHS Eatwell Guide recommends 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. This includes water, sugar-free drinks, tea, and coffee. For an 8-hour work day that works out at a glass an hour. So it makes a good excuse to get up from the desk at regular intervals.
If you work in a confined or crowded space and don’t have much room to walk about in, you can stand up and stretch instead. A short stretching routine could feel great after a few hours of sitting at a desk. To get you started, here’s a great article demonstrating 10 office worker-friendly stretches.
Or you could also have a go at one of the short office yoga/stretching routines below…
Office Break Yoga | 14 Min. Yoga Practice | Yoga With Adriene
Office Job Stretch Routine | 15 Min Follow Along
15 Min Yoga for Your Lunch & Office Break | Breathe and Flow Yoga
Park further away from the office
If you drive to work, try taking the furthest parking space from the front door. That way you’ll be able to fit in a little extra walking time before and after the working day.
Take the stairs
For anyone who works on an upper floor of a large building, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Even if you’re on the tenth floor, you can always walk up three or four flights before taking the elevator the rest of the way.
Stretch for better posture
Stretching is an excellent daily practise to keep your body flexible and healthy. It’s accessible, low-impact, and doesn’t take up too much time.
By stretching every day, you could really combat the negative effects of sitting – especially in regards to your back. To give you some inspiration, take a look at these three great routines…
6 Best Stretches & Exercises To FIX Desk Posture | Get Rid Of Neck & Back Pain
Qi Gong Routine for Back Pain – Easy w/ Jeff Chand
The PERFECT 10 Minute Daily Posture Routine (FIX YOUR SIT!)
Keep well whilst you work
We hope you found some useful ideas in this post. And for more on office wellbeing take a look at our post, Feng Shui In The Home Office: How To Spruce Up Your Personal Workspace For Increased Productivity And Wellbeing.