This time of year, it’s easy to find reasons to become a couch potato. Cold temps, snow and cloudy days put a damper on even the most motivated among us. Thankfully here in Colorado we’ve had more than our share of mild and even warm days so far this month, and we’ve seen people everywhere taking advantage of it.
But no matter the weather, what about that perennial fitness killer, the desk job, that impacts so many of us? It doesn’t matter if you do your work in an office, at home, or in a coffee shop, if you spend a significant part of your day hunched over a computer, sitting in meetings or trapped on conference calls, you know how hard it can be on your body.
Unfortunately, it may actually be worse than you think. Consider these findings:
Nike shared a study which found that five or more hours of sedentary sitting is the health equivalent of smoking more than a pack of cigarettes! In fact, there are numerous studies that connect extended sitting with increased risk of heart disease, and obesity, among other things, including death!
Spending too much time staring down at your phone can also have a negative impact on your health. NBC’s Today Show recently reported that by tilting our heads forward – in the way that many of us do when checking our phones – up to 60 pounds of force is exerted on the neck, which can lead to “early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”
Of course these are just two of many reasons why people in general – and Americans in particular – do less and weigh more than we did 50 years ago, starting with the mechanization of many jobs, and most recently with the automation and digitization of most of our daily tasks.
We could just boil this down to the conclusion that the Internet is making us sick. But then so are elevators, cars, drive-thrus of all varieties and many other “conveniences” that keep us from (gasp!) standing, walking, climbing or stretching as we go about our day.
Thankfully, if we can create 21st century problems, we can also find modern solutions. We’ve put together four “Life Hacks” – ranked from lowest level of commitment to highest – to make on-the-job fitness part of your daily routine
- Simply Stand Up: Try to avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time. That’s not just an arbitrary number. 20 minutes has been shown to be the magic amount of time before your body starts to exhibit a physiological impact from sitting. Here’s how it works: you use the muscles in your legs and back to stand, which in turn increases the enzymes that break up fat in the blood stream, reports Susan Enfield of the Delicious Living Blog. In addition, standing (yes, just standing) helps our bodies process glucose better and burn calories, which helps to reduce weight gain.
- Practice good posture at work (+everywhere else): Regardless of if you are sitting or standing, or texting. Good posture can be practiced at work, on the plane or while driving your car and posture is a life (and pain) saver. Pay special attention to the time you spend texting, and eliminate all that extra pressure on your spine (and your thumbs).
- Walk more. Many studies show that those who walk 30-60 minutes on most days are far more likely to maintain their weight and reduce related risk factors. But even if you can’t manage 30 minutes every day, walk whenever and where ever you can: take a 60 second walk between meetings, or better yet, host a walking meeting. Avoid emailing people who are in walking distance from your desk – go see them instead. Park further from the entrance of your office or train station, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Colorado even has a “flat 14ers” program that encourages adults and children to be active by tracking their movement and measuring their progress on virtual 14ers (a nod to the 58 Colorado peaks that are 14,000 feet or higher).
- Redesign your desk. Did you see this CBS This Morning segment a few months ago? While the “walking” got a little out of hand, walking desk stations are not a gimmick. It’s not for everyone, but it is a trend that’s growing. But before you invest in a high end walking workstation, or try to create your own DIY version, check out the great advice, how tos and FAQs on workwhilewalking.com.