While at work, nothing slows down productivity like neck pain, back pain, or insidious body aches. A tip for preventing discomfort sounds pretty simple: stand up, stretch, or walk around once every 30-60 minutes. To many of you, I’m sure this sounds inconvenient or even impossible, but the benefits of breaking up periods of extended sedentary behavior (i.e. sitting) cannot be ignored.
A recent study outlines the health risks associated with prolonged sitting. Our bodies aren’t designed to be inactive for extended periods of time. When we sit and watch television, work at a desk, or drive a vehicle, our bodies dramatically decrease the breakdown of sugars and fats, resulting in a shocking 125 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease or heart attack. In addition to increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, your circulation, spine health, and general comfort decreases while sitting for great lengths of time. Unfortunately, research proves that merely adding a couple hours of gym time to your week doesn’t really help. What does help, though, is breaking up your periods of inactivity by walking or standing while you work.
Here’s how to banish inactivity in the workplace, improve your overall wellness, increase your energy levels, and decrease pain/discomfort:
- Stand while you work. Standing desks are very simple to install and the VariDesk is gaining popularity. Research proves that the muscles activated by simply standing dramatically increase your body’s metabolism of sugars and fats. Also, standing and walking returns full range of motion to your spine and legs and increases circulation to your joints.
- Walk at work. Instead of having regular meetings with your coworkers in the conference room, take a walk outside or through your departments.
- Take small walk breaks. Every hour or so, get up and walk around a bit. Take a lap around your office floor, or walk outside for some fresh air.
- Actively watch television. If you just can’t go without your favorite shows or the nightly news, try viewing them while exercising on a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes.
- Check your neck position in regard to your monitor, television, and cell phone. Constantly looking down at your screen can cause cervical disc degeneration or even an early onset of arthritis.
Be aware of your activity levels and try to stand, not sit, as often as you can. You’ll love the increased metabolism, energy, and the overall improvement of your health. Small changes such as these really do add up and make a big difference.
Best of health,
Dr. Chad M. Hoffman
“Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior.” Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010 Jul; 38(3): 105–113.