Physical therapists, like myself, spend an inordinately large amount of their day encouraging their patients to move. It’s for good reason too! We’ve all heard that sitting has been dubbed the “new smoking”. Research has shown that just meeting exercise recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio and 2-3 days of total body strength training per week is not enough to constitute fitness. Both the total amount of sedentary time per day AND the length of time spent sitting per bout have been shown to increase mortality from all causes (think heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.). This means that to decrease your risk, you must decrease the total amount of time you sit in a day and the length of time you sit at each instance.
“But I’m so busy already!” you say. “I have to sit for my job,” you say. I get it. I really do. The amount of time I’ve spent sitting over the last 7 years of college disgusts me. I may have been learning about exercise and the harmful effects of sitting in my exercise physiology and physical therapy programs, but that didn’t entitle me to do jumping jacks in the back of the classroom or skip out on my afternoon classes in favor of a game of Ultimate Frisbee. However, I’ve found some pretty seamless ways to sit less and incorporate a bit more movement into my day. My hope is that you’ll work some of these into your schedule too!
Easy Ways to Sit Less at Work
Install a sit-stand desk.
- We’ve all heard of the ubiquitous stand-up desk. As more research emerges on the harmful effects of sitting, it’s a benefit that many employers are starting to offer. Request one from your employer if possible. If they deny your request (even after printing out this blog and the resources I’ve linked and presenting it to your HR manager 😉 ), you can obtain one fairly affordably. If you can’t lug your own desk to the office, there are several companies that make a wide variety of kits to convert your traditional sit-down desk to a sit-stand one.
- NOTE: Make sure you use these desks properly! They are called “sit-stand” desks, not “stand all day” desks. Prolonged periods of standing can day in and day out has actually been found to increase your risk of heart disease.
Let your office set-up remind you to move.
- Another easy way to sit less and get more movement is to simply structure your office to encourage those behaviors. If you have the space, place things in filing cabinets across the room or on shelves that require you to stand to reach them.
Employ the Pomodoro technique.
- It’s been shown that taking frequent breaks can help boost your productivity and the quality of the decisions you make. I like to employ the Pomodoro technique, described in detail here. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes and focus all of your attention on one task for those 25 minutes. Then you take a short break. Every 4 cycles, you take a longer 30-minute break. Simply use your breaks for some movement (a walk around the office followed by a few stretches, for instance) and you’re well on your way to sitting less!
Institute standing meetings.
- Many employees spend hours every day in meetings, so it makes sense to look for ways to sit less during them. I have heard of companies that are requiring some or all of their meetings to be conducted while standing, while others are adding an optional “standing area” in the back of the room for employees to utilize at their will. Research has shown that standing during meetings can actually boost creativity and make coworkers less defensive and more likely to be a team player, so it helps that company’s bottom line too!
Get a headset and walk while making calls.
- Most of the calls you make in the course of a day are probably not confidential, so why not take them while walking around the inside or outside of your office? Just make sure to get a headset and NEVER hold the phone between your shoulder and your ear! I’ve treated several patients with neck pain and headaches caused by doing that.
- More water means more trips to the bathroom. Enough said. 😉
- Actually get up from your desk and go talk to your coworkers instead of emailing or calling! Conversations always go over better (especially potentially contentious ones) when conducted in person. Not only that, but you can usually reach conclusions are usually much faster. Offer to type up a quick email with what was discussed when you get back to your desk if a record is needed.
Use a different floor’s bathroom, break area, etc.
- Another simple way to sit less and get more movement is to use the bathroom, microwave, etc. on another floor. And take the stairs! It’ll take a little longer to get there but you’ll rack up more steps on your way.
Park farther away from your office if possible.
- This is a great way to bookend your day with some movement. It’s even better if you leave for lunch! If you park 10 minutes away from your office and walk back to your car for lunch, that’s easily 40 minutes of walking added to your day. You might even save money by parking your car farther away too!
Start a walking group.
- During PT school, I started walking laps around the building after I had eaten my lunch. I got a few awkward stares at first, but it didn’t take long before several other students joined in. We eventually had to split into 2 groups because we couldn’t fit through the hallways when we were all clustered together! I always felt refreshed when I had to sit back down for class and I made some new friends too. 🙂
There you have it- several easy ways to sit less! I hope that you’ll incorporate some or all of these suggestions into your workday. I know I feel healthier and much more productive when I move throughout the day and I’m sure you will as well!
P.S.- Have you tried out any of these tips? Is there anything you do that I didn’t include above?