Our bodies are meant to move, but many of us spend the majority of our day sitting still. When you have a sedentary job, paired with a commute and a bit of screen time at home, the hours add up quickly. And while a daily bout of exercise helps, it’s not enough to counteract the effects of sitting for so many hours.
Sitting is now compared to smoking, and perhaps for good reason. Sitting for long periods has been associated with heart disease, vascular problems such as varicose veins, back pain, herniated discs, hip pain, shoulder pain, headaches and muscle degeneration.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to mitigate the risks of sitting at your workplace. Not only will your body feel better, but your mind will too. Regular movement throughout the day boosts your energy levels, mood and improves performance at work.
1. Stretch the tight muscles. While a personalized assessment will determine exactly which of your muscles are tight, there is a common theme amongst people who sit for long periods of time. Muscles that typically need to be stretched include the pectorals (chest), lats (sides of your trunk), neck extensors (back of neck), hip flexors (front of hips), quadriceps (front of thighs)and lower back. Aim to stretch those muscles at least once or twice during a workday; the more the better. Even a 10 second hold of each stretch every few hours will help.
2. Strengthen your postural muscles and core. Ensure that your regular fitness routine includes exercises that target your glutes, core and upper back. Examples of exercises include; squats, hip bridging, seated rows and opposite arm and leg raises. Avoid doing too many sit ups and crunches as they can augment the effects of sitting.
3. Take active breaks. The more you can get up off your seat, the better. Here are a few ideas:
-Make it a rule to stand when you talk on the phone
-Deliver messages on foot instead of emailing a co-worker
-Set a timer or download an app to remind you to move at least once each hour. Take a short walk break, or do a few squats or trunk rotations.
-Go for a walk on your lunch break. Better yet, take a few co-workers with you!
-Take the stairs instead of the elevator
4. Change your environment. Whenever possible, adjust your environment to promote less sitting. Options include standing desks, sitting on a ball instead of a chair (you’ll still be sitting but at least you’re able to move your hips more!) and even treadmill desks. Simpler ideas include moving your printer further away to force you to get up each time you print.
5. Keep motivated! Knowledge is not power, applied knowledge is power. Now that you know a few things that you can do to improve your health and lessen the effects of sitting, it’s time to take action. Find a buddy at work and motivate each other, or set up a simple health challenge in your workplace to get others on board
If you spend most of your work day sitting in a chair, it’s time to get moving! I challenge you to make one small change toward sitting a bit less and moving a bit more.