"Sitting is the new smoking"; take steps to mitigate the negative effects of a desk job!
By now most of you have probably heard the saying "sitting is the new smoking"; I didn't create this slogan, but I love it. I am all about encouraging people to sit less and move more. Excessive sitting (especially if you have poor body awareness) can result in bad posture, muscle imbalances, stiffness, and lack of circulation. Not only that, prolonged sitting negatively affects the cardiovascular, lymphatic, and digestive systems, not to mention your metabolism. It is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, and it affects how your body metabolizes glucose.
Basically, move wherever and whenever possible.
Now I get it, it is easy for me to say "don't sit" — I don't have a desk job. Not everyone can be a personal trainer. For most, some amount of sitting is a necessary evil, BUT that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to mitigate the damages. Get a standing desk and/or sit on a stability ball, accumulate 10,000 steps throughout your day, and get an ergonomic assessment of your workspace.
1. Get a standing desk
If you or your company can afford to invest in a standing desk, go for it! Even better, get yourself an adjustable desk so you can work while standing or sitting. If your workplace can't splurge, be creative — use a filling cabinet or a high counter. Make yourself a standing desk out of whatever is available.
2. Sit on a stability ball
Sitting on a ball can help to improve posture and body awareness, especially if you are a stability ball newbie. If you don't already work out on the ball, the instability will challenge your balance and force you to become more body-aware. You will have to sit up, or risk falling.
Quick note — if the aesthetic of the ball doesn't jive with your work environment, try sitting on an inflatable cushion. Common brands are the SitFit and GoFit Core Disk. Inflatable balance cushions offer many of the same benefits of the ball, but are more inconspicuous.
Important note about the standing desk and the ball!
No product offers a miracle health fix. Standing at a standing desk doesn't magically improve your posture or make it okay to work for long periods without a break.
Further, most people stand with bad posture, and standing for long periods with bad posture, like sitting with bad posture, can contribute to chronic back, hip, ankle, and neck pain.
So if you do get a standing desk, assess your standing posture as well as your footwear. Heels can negatively affect your posture. Wear supportive flats. Or, if you absolutely can't give up your heels, take them off when standing.
As for the stability ball, just keep in mind that once your body gets used to the instability of the ball or cushion, you will find ways to cheat. Your posture will probably slowly return to your normal (often hunched) position. If you are familiar with working out on the ball, this acclimatization process will most likely occur at a relatively quick rate.
Plus, sitting on a ball is still sitting.
I am not saying don't use the ball or standing desk, just know that neither are a miracle solution.
3. Aim to accumulate 10,000 steps per day
Whether you have a traditional or a standing desk, or you sit on a ball or a chair, aim to accumulate 10,000 steps per day. Schedule lunchtime walks with colleagues, take the long way around the office when you get water, walk to talk with a colleague instead of phoning them, or take the stairs instead of the escalator. Set an alarm to remind you to check your posture, drink water, and, when possible, walk around and stretch. As you walk around, try what I call the colour challenge: Pick a color — any colour — maybe red. Every time you see red, stop and check your posture.
Just remember that every bit of movement adds up!
4. Get an ergonomic assessment of your workspace
Whether you sit at your desk, stand, or do a combination of both, take the time to assess the ergonomic setup of your work station and to become mindful of your body.