We’ve all seen the headlines, where seemingly healthy office workers or college-age computer gamers have keeled over after marathon work or computer game bouts. Though rare, these stories are stunning reminders that sitting virtually motionless for extended periods is horrendous for your health. In fact, some are even calling it “the new smoking.” Behind the headlines, numerous studies indicate that hours of uninterrupted daily duff-time boosts heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer risk as well as the risk of premature death. Researchers think that the raised risks are connected to what happens in the body when sitting for long periods: circulation slows, the ability to manage glucose declines, muscles start to deteriorate, body fat starts to rise, and so on – all of which can spell tons of trouble for millions of people with sedentary jobs. Even if you have a regular exercise routine, it’s probably not enough to counteract the daily damage inflicted by an hour or two commuting in the car, another 8 –to-10 hours sitting at desk, plus an hour or so of couch-potato time in the evening.
So what’s an office-worker to do? Start by adding a lot more movement at frequent and regular intervals throughout the day to supplement your workout routine – and stand up for your health, ideally for more hours than you sit.
Here are a few ideas on how to get off your duff, cut down the number of hours you spend on it, and a few tools to help you do it:
1. Rise Up From Your Chair!
If you want to limit the health risks related to prolonged sitting, you’re going to have to take a stand – starting with a stand-up desk. What makes them so health-supportive is that not only do they get you out of your desk chair, forcing you to support your own weight and move more, but within a minute or so, blood flood increases, muscles engage, and your entire metabolism wakes back up. And while healthier desk options are a fairly common sight at fledgling companies and start-ups, chances are they aren’t at yours, so instead of waiting eons for your old-codger boss to see the light, consider taking matters – and your health – into your own hands.
If you work in a traditional office setting, here are a few routes to consider:
- Granted, converting every desk in the office to a stand-up one is, in the near-term, an unlikely proposition. You can try asking your employer if they’d be willing to start small. Suggest a test program, with a short-term rental or purchase of one or two communal stand-up or treadmill communal workstations. To get their attention, mention the stand-up and treadmill desks’ potential for increased productivity, reduced health care costs and even employee turnover. (They are considered wellness perks, you know!)
- If your employer is not willing to make a purchase, then try plan B:
- Buy a stand-up desk accessory or laptop stand that instantly converts your office desk into a simple stand-up one. FitDesk (among others) makes a metal desktop stand for your laptop (about $80). Set it up on your desk, start working and maybe inspire your co-workers to join the movement!
- Invest in your own stand-up desk to use at the office. They can be pricey, but basic adjustable models start at about $500 and are for many people a worthwhile investment. Just be sure to clear it with the boss first!
- Another option is the clever and inexpensive StandStand. It’s an ingenious, collapsible, portable, light-weight laptop stand that turns virtually any table into a standing one – and slides easily into your carry-on bag, making it perfect for mobile professionals, frequent travelers and those who live or work in cramped quarters. Better yet, it weighs less than two pounds and is made in the USA from sustainable birch ($69) and bamboo ($99).
If you work from a home office, then you’ve got even more interesting options to consider:
- Stand-up desk and treadmill desk offerings from makers like StandDesk, TrekDesk, LifeSpan and NextDesk, all of whom make some combination of adjustable height stand-up desks, as well as desktops that fit over standard treadmills so you can walk while you work. Prices range from roughly $400 for the StandDesk and about $500 for Ikea’s “Bekant” version on up to $1,500 and higher for heavy-duty models from LifeSpan and others.
- If your home office is space is tight, then you might want to consider the very reasonably-priced, space-saving Refold Desk from New Zealand. Made of super-strong cardboard, reinforced with eco-friendly glue, the collapsible, fold-up, Refold stand-up desk sells for about $140 and is a great option for those who need maximum workspace flexibility as well as the ability to stash their desk in a closet or under the bed when company arrives!
2. Get Tracking
In addition to incorporating a stand-up desk and more intermittent movement into your day, another truly valuable investment in your health is a fitness tracker band, which can be had for $50 – $200. A tracker will monitor your movements, help keep you honest and serve as a constant reminder to meet your daily health goals. Shoot for at least 10,000 steps over the course of the day, but if you can do more, so much the better. Start slow and build up over time, particularly if you’re just getting started or restarting after a long hiatus.
3. Commute Standing Up
For those who commute by public transport, the opportunities for standing up are many – so take advantage! Instead of being perturbed when there’s nowhere to sit on the subway or bus, think of it as a chance to literally stand up for your health. Already have a seat? Then give it up to someone else and stand for the duration of your commute. If you have a half-hour commute, standing through it will cut an hour or so off your daily sitting-way-too-much tally and burn a few extra calories to boot – so just do it!
4. Make Standing Up and Movement a Game You Play All Day
Look for opportunities to stand more than you sit throughout the day – and come up with excuses to keep moving to help you hit your 10,000 steps goal. Try these tricks to keep you off your duff:
- Get off the bus or subway a stop or two before your destination and walk the rest of the way. Or if you have the option to walk, cycle, skateboard or scoot to work – realize how lucky you are and get to work using your own engine as often as possible.
- At the office, check your emails standing up; reply sitting down. Sure, you’ll be hopping up and down all day but that’s the idea!
- Take calls and impromptu meetings standing up. In addition to the health benefits, standing naturally tends to keep conversations shorter, also making quick exits from long-winded bosses or co-workers that much easier.
- Wear a headset while on conference calls so you can comfortably stand throughout the conversation.
- Set an alarm on your desktop to go off every 45 minutes or so to remind you to do a 2-minute lap around the office to help wake up your circulation.
- Sip on water throughout the day to encourage more frequent walks to the restroom.
- Go out to get your lunch instead of ordering in – and walk to the deli instead of driving!
- Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of emailing.
- Stroll over to the mailroom instead of waiting for the mail to hit your inbox.
- Instead of sending the assistant or intern, walk to Reception to greet your visitors.
- Use the shared printer on the other side of the office instead of the one closest to your desk.
- Get a stand-up desk or treadmill desk installed at your office (see point #1)
- After work, remember, drive-thru banking, drive-restaurants, or anyplace with curb-side service – all of them are missed opportunities for movement, not to mention human interaction – so get out of the car, stretch your legs and walk thru your errands instead of driving thru.
For more thoughts on working more movement into you day, check out Keren Day’s post How to Fit Exercise Into Your Daily Routine.