Sitting is a part of life, one that is simply unavoidable. We sit in class in school and listen to our teachers.
We sit on the couch with our roommates and glasses of wine after a long day. We sit on a plane while we’re en route to exploring a new part of the world. We sit around the dinner table with our families, catching up and telling stories.
We sit on tiny dorm beds in huddles with our college girlfriends on Sundays, rewatching season three of "Dawson’s Creek" for the hundredth time that semester.
Okay, my friends and I may be alone in that last one, but this next statement is far from unique: Many of us sit at our desks pretty much all day during our jobs.
I enjoy my job, and I'm lucky the position and responsibilities I have allow me to travel out of the office occasionally and work remotely.
It’s definitely nice to have a change of scenery sometimes, but most days, like many other adults in the working world, I’m answering emails, taking notes and completing projects at my desk computer.
Working and sitting at a desk is a typical part of the 9-to-5 experience, one that is pretty necessary if you think about it. Many of us concentrate best when in our respective offices or cubicles. Personally, I’m someone who likes to have my own desktop at my disposal.
When I’m traveling for work and using my laptop, I miss how accessible and organized the files are on my office computer. But, health-wise? There is zero benefit to sitting for the majority of the day.
According to an article published in late August of last year by MindBodyGreen, 50 to 70 percent of people today spend over six hours sitting. The infographic the article showcases lists even more concerning statistics, some of which I’ve included below.
I hope you’re sitting down for these. Or, actually, maybe you should stand:
- Adults today only spend 5 percent of the day in moderate to vigorous physical activity.
- In 150 years, our society has gone from one which stood or walked 90 percent of the day, to one that sits for 60 percent.
- Prolonged sitting over time increases the risk for health issues, ranging from high cholesterol and lower back pain to colon cancer and type 2 diabetes, to name a few.
Terrifying. So, yes, the effects of sitting are awful for us long-term, but it’s not like we’re going to quit our jobs over this, right?
How do we manage?
Through my own experience, colleagues’ experience and research, I've found a couple options that can begin to help us limit the risks of the largely sedentary corporate lifestyle as best we can.
I try to take a walk outside every day when I’m in the office. Grab lunch or a cup of coffee with a coworker.
Shop or browse the stores near your building, if any. Even if you’re too busy for a long break, walk down your street and back.
Just five minutes of fresh air is better than none at all. Getting outside breaks up the day and, in my opinion, helps with perspective.
If I’m stuck on a project or need to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming meeting, taking a short walk helps me clear my head and find solutions.
Stand up (right now, as you’re reading this).
Absolutely swamped with work? Extreme weather outside keeping you from even setting foot near a door? Take a second and just stand up. Standing even for just two minutes for every 20 minutes that go by has a positive impact on your body.
Use the stairs.
A great and simple way to practice light fitness in the office. Forget the elevators for a day and utilize the stairs when going to the conference room or your friend’s cubicle.
Try out a different desk.
Many employees are starting to use stand-up desks at their offices and love them. I’ve seen coworkers during my internships in the past use and swear by them.
These types of desks actively lower certain health hazards that come with sitting, like obesity and cardiovascular issues.
I’ve also been told standing all day helps people focus more. Being unable to slouch or sit comfortably leads you to be more alert and get more work done.
Trade in your chair...
…for an exercise ball. Go big or go home, right? Supposedly, they are great for your back and posture, and keep your body moving in small ways so you’re more active when at your desk than you would be if just sitting in a chair.
However, be warned: Don’t let what happened to Dwight Schrute happen to you.
A little movement during the workday can make so much positive difference, for both our health and how effectively we complete assignments.
Jobs that require sitting in an office are always going to be around, but the way we choose to maintain healthy practices while at those jobs is up to us to get creative.
And, who knows? With how fast and furious technology is progressing these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 years from now, all office desks come with built-in treadmills running underneath them.
Either way, sitting doesn’t stand a chance.