You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking, but does that mean all of us with desk jobs are doomed? Not if we play our cards right. For several years, I skipped lunches and rarely got up for any other breaks during the busy season at work, feeling chained to my desk because of all that I had to get done. Sadly, I’m sure many of you can identify with my experience. After I got married, I started to realize that no work responsibilities were more important than my health. This was my fault for not prioritizing movement throughout the day. It’s easy to blame your employer for a heavy workload or long hours, but ultimately it’s up to you to set boundaries and be your own advocate to put your health first. If you’re a current or former DJ like me (that’s desk junkie), try incorporating some of the below strategies into your workday to sit less and improve your health.
- Use a standing desk or sit on an exercise ball chair – Employers are becoming more accepting of this trend and some may even reimburse you for purchasing one. It doesn’t hurt to ask! I’ve used both of these and enjoyed being able to move more while I worked. For the standing desk, I would recommend purchasing a comfortable mat to stand on and possibly a tall chair to adjust to being on your feet for long periods of time. For the exercise ball chair, don’t throw out your regular chair. Your back and core muscles will get a major workout with this setup so you may need to phase it in slowly until your body adjusts.
- Take a movement break every 30-60 minutes – You might need to set a timer to remind yourself (my FitBit buzzes at me each hour), but a healthy goal is to get up once per hour to stretch and walk around the office. Exercising before or after work (or over lunch) is beneficial, but studies have shown that it’s key to break up long periods of sitting throughout the day with movement in order to reduce the negative effects on your body. Proper hydration also helps with this goal
- Find a friend or co-worker to encourage you in your daily movement goals – When I worked in an office setting, a few co-workers would join me to plank each afternoon for 1-2 minutes (we set calendar reminders for this). Planking was a great way to engage the core and wake us up from the afternoon slump. If planking isn’t your thing, try doing squats, dips or some push-ups. Whether you choose to walk around the office, plank, or do a few jumping jacks, the important thing is to find someone that will hold you accountable to your goals.
- Bring a resistance band to work – You’ve probably seen the DeskCycle (and maybe made fun of it). I prefer to use resistance bands because they’re less expensive and I can use them for strength as well as stretching, without being too conspicuous. This is a great list of possibilities to try. Don’t underestimate the power of a good stretch! I like alternating my breaks to mix it up – I’ll do some stretching at my desk, laps around the cubicles, walking the stairs, and resistance band strength exercises (either by the desk or while walking).
- Suggest an active meeting/outdoor meeting – This may not be possible for all industries, but if you have the ability to do this, suggest it to your boss, or to your direct reports. It’s a great way to get your movement in and think in more creative ways in a new environment. In one meeting I was in charge of, I had everyone perform various exercises (wall sits, planks, squats, etc). While they did the exercises, they had to say one word of the company’s mission statement, then the person next to them would say the next word, and so on around the room until it was complete. Talk about getting people to speak quickly! It’s always interesting to watch how people react when they are in challenging situations. Yes, I was that supervisor!
Don’t be afraid to be unconventional in your quest for movement each day. A good employer will respect the fact that prioritizing your health is crucial. If they don’t, I would venture to say that you may want to find another place to work! Your life and your health are too important to allow any job to take precedence over your well-being, so will you join me in committing to daily activity? Start small and commit to adding in a little activity during each work day.
Thank you so much for reading!