Use these hacks to make your day more productive and your body a lot happier.
According to the American Heart Association, over 80 percent of all US jobs are predominantly sedentary. This is, put simply, a problem — and while we don’t expect desk jobs to be eradicated in the near future (if anything, there will likely be more of them), we think everyone should be aware of the risks that come along with a sedentary lifestyle. That’s why I’m here today to inform you of some things you can and should do to lower your risk of “sitting disease”.
When did things go wrong?
Our bodies weren’t designed to sit for long periods. The human body was designed to move, and until around the mid-20th century, that’s what we did.
This time period was a turning point for America as advances in technology, heavy equipment, and transportation were making their way into the homes, lives, and workspaces of many. As a result, we began sitting more than ever, lifting less, and getting less and less daily physical activity.
As technology has continued to advance and sedentary jobs have taken over the workspace, the average American now sits a whopping 12 hours per day, according to Just Stand, an organization committed to bringing awareness to sedentarism.
The problem with desk jobs
According to the National Institutes of Health, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to serious negative health problems like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even certain types of cancer. On top of these serious conditions, living a sedentary lifestyle can be a huge factor in mental health disorders, chronic pain, postural imbalances, and general well-being.
5 ways to stay active at work
First, you should know that the training or exercise you’re doing before or after work is not enough to combat the negative impact of your sedentary lifestyle.
You need more general activity throughout the day. It has been shown that increasing NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is linked to a reduced risk of developing obesity and obesity-related diseases, and your NEAT is far more important in the long run than your 30- or 60-minute workout.
So how do you increase NEAT, sit less, and move more throughout the day if you have a desk job?
1. Take movement breaks
Make it a goal to take a five to 15 minute movement break at least once every two hours. You can do these movement breaks at or away from your desk. We like to incorporate a few mobility exercises, some simple banded or bodyweight strength exercises, or even a five to 10 minute walk.
If you’re facing a time crunch or you’re just unable to leave your desk, you can try out some postural exercises or stretches in or by your chair. Before you say, “I don’t have time for that,” try it out for a week (like really, actually try) and you may be surprised how much it decreases your stress levels and improves your mood, productivity, and mental acuity.
2. Have a daily step goal
Having a daily step goal and taking movement breaks will likely be the top two things that make the biggest difference in increasing your NEAT. If you don’t have a watch that tracks your steps, you can use an app on your phone. Ideally, we should all strive to get at least 10,000 steps per day, but we recommend you take a look at what you currently get and start where you are. Every week or so, try adding 500 to 1,000 steps to your current daily step count until you make your way to 10,000.
Some ways to do this:
3. Get a standing desk
We understand that the perfect ergonomic setup isn’t available for everyone, whether you have a small space or financial restrictions. However, if you find yourself really tight and achy throughout the day, a standing desk might be worth it for you. Look into your options: Maybe you can find a great standing desk, a sit-stand desk riser, or even a treadmill desk.
If you work for a corporate company, show them some research and ask about the option of them investing into these for your company. If a standing desk is out of range at the moment, you can always stack some books or a box on top of your desk for a no-cost, make-shift option.
4. Get up any chance you get
Do you have to attend meetings, make and receive phone calls, or take time to brainstorm?
Likely, all of these things can be done standing up. Phone calls, especially, can be done while pacing in your office or at least standing up next to your desk. Depending on your job, this could drastically decrease the amount of time you are sitting!
5. Make time for play
This is a big one, but maybe the hardest one to incorporate while in the office (especially if your boss isn’t into it). However, we believe that “recess” shouldn’t stop after grade school.
Big corporations like Google and Facebook encourage play time for all of their employees onsite, and there are some good reasons why. While you may not have access to basketball courts, outdoor gyms, and ping pong tournaments like some big companies have, you may find fun in juggling, getting in a dance-off with your desk neighbor, or working on your handstand skills.
Smarter Sweat takeaways
We live in a sedentary world and the research is clear: This lifestyle can and will lead to negative health complications overtime. Take your health into your own hands by implementing some of the movement suggestions above — experiment until you find out what works for you!
If you just can’t get your boss to approve of on-the-job movement, try showing them some of the research behind it or ask about implementing a form of corporate wellness in your workplace they do approve of. Applying these five tips will not only help improve your overall health and longevity overtime, it will also likely immediately improve your focus, productivity, energy, and mental health. Remember, a healthy employee is a productive and happy employee.
von Loeffelholz C, Birkenfeld A. The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity. [Updated 2018 Apr 9]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/
Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-1141. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0444. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996155/
The Facts Behind “Sitting Disease.” Just Stand. https://www.juststand.org/the-facts/
Gremaud, Allene J, et. al. Gamifying Accelerometer Use Increases Physical Activity Levels of Sedentary Office Workers. (J Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7: e007735. DOI:10.1161/JAHA.117.007735.). https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/JAHA.117.007735
By Ashley Pfantz
Ashley is the cofounder of Smarter Sweat, certified personal trainer and professional health and fitness coach. She also owns Pfancy Fitness, an individualized fitness, nourishment, and lifestyle coaching business where she coaches all of her clients remotely.
About Smarter Sweat
Smarter Sweat is a fitness company built from the ground up by fitness experts Amanda Capritto and Ashley Phantz. Amanda and Ashley are both dead-set on cutting through the clutter of the fitness industry and providing raw, real, utterly honest information about fitness and wellness.