How to Compensate for a Sitting Lifestyle
By Dr. Molly Casey
I've written previously about the risks of a sedentary life and the benefits of standing desks. Although there are certainly ways around an employer denying a request for a standing desk, sometimes you simply must remain seated -- for whatever reason. If that is the case, this article is for you.
A timer will be your very best friend if you are going to make it through a sedentary work lifestyle with any hope of health and wellness. I know that is a strong statement, but it’s true. A timer is important because you will need to be working within the parameters of intervals. Think of your day as before lunch and after lunch. Each has three one-hour segments and within those segments are 15-30 minute intervals.
You’ll need to check your posture and ergonomics during each interval to be sure you’re in the optimal position. This will become a lot easier as time goes on because it will become more natural and you’ll have to correct less. The optimal position is shoulders down and back, forearms level with the desk and wrists in a neutral position with keyboard, and monitor at eye level directly in front of you. If you have two or more screens, make sure you have a swivel chair so you can rotate to view them straight-on each time. Make sure you’re breathing deeply in through your nose and deep into your belly, and out through your mouth (this one seems to throw people for a loop; it’s hard but keep at it).
Each segment (hour) you need to stand, stretch, squat, and rotate. This does not mean you need to take a break every single hour from your work. Stand up at your desk, do 10 bodyweight squats. Then stretch your quads by grabbing one ankle and bringing it to the back of your buttocks . Standing with two feet on the ground rotate your upper body back and forth. Stretch each arm over your head and try to reach the hand down your back as far as possible. This can all be done in a matter of minutes while still looking at your computer screen or talking on the phone. Try your best to walk as much as possible for any single task possible. You may look funny at your desk, but you will feel better and your body will definitely thank you. Give it some time.
If there is absolutely no way around a seated desk at work, you must make movement outside of work mandatory; it’s non-negotiable. Looking to walk as much as you can as often as you can is the first step. This means taking the stairs consistently and as often as possible, and going for a walk on your lunch break. It means walking the kids to the park instead of driving them, or walking to the corner store for that ice cream. It means parking in the last spot at the grocery store parking lot every single time. It also means that you have a daily exercise routine that is very rarely missed. If you’re sitting at work 8-10 hours a day, a simple one-hour exercise session isn’t going to reverse that sedentary lifestyle, it simply shifts it a bit. So exercise must become one of your non-negotiables in life.
There are always ways to figure things out and make the best out of a less-than-perfect situation. Careers that require extensive sedentary lifestyles can be figured out too. It simply takes some time, creative thinking and a whole lot of follow-through and consistency. All of those elements are on you. The question begs, how badly do you want to experience a journey of health versus a journey of suffering? You are going to pay either way … in follow-through and consistency, or conditions and illnesses. It’s up to you.
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