Don’t Just Sit There


Colon cancer. Insulin problems. Heart disease. Slowed brain function. Sitting is quite literally killing us,  at least according to this graphic by the Washington Post.

Given the nature of our increasingly computer-driven work environments, there is little that can be done to avoid sitting for most of the 8-10 hours we work in the office each day.  Unfortunately, research shows that extra-curricular trips to the gym — running the mornings before work or hitting up a post-office spin class — can’t undo the effects of a day spent on one’s behind.

That means the only available option is to reimagine our work environments. Here are a few ways you can avoid the dreaded effects of the insidious office sit-in:

Make a Stand.  Standing desks have been gaining popularity for several years, thanks to a collection of studies finding that working from an upright position may be better, metabolically. The workstations are often DIY, though commercially available desks are also a hit. The key is to make sure that the desk is at the appropriate height for you. According to Wired, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes and stand on a soft mat for added support. Men’s Health reported that you burn 40 percent more calories while standing than while sitting, but what’s more, you may be making profound changes to your endocrine system and blood lipid profile.

Walk It Out.  Taking regular walking breaks can help your circulation, working to counteract some of those problems. Reported Olivia Judson in the New York Times: A study of people who sit for many hours found that those who took frequent small breaks — standing up to stretch or walk down the corridor — had smaller waists and better profiles for sugar and fat metabolism than those who did their sitting in long, uninterrupted chunks. Try to take two breaks per hour, suggests Men’s Health. That means getting up for a glass of water, walking down the hall to visit coworkers or just doing a lap around the office perimeter.

Go Pomodoro.  ECHOtape writer, Heather Stalker, adapted the Pomodoro Technique to offset sitting. “I used to use Pomodoro to help me focus. I would work on one project for 50 minutes, then take a 10 minute break before continuing that project or starting on another.  Now I use that 10 minutes to stretch, to get some water, or if I’m particularly stressed out, just some 10 minute focused breathing.  {Hooray for the Headspace App!}  I used to set my FitBit to go off once an hour as a reminder, but that was too easy to ignore. Now I set an obnoxious timer that I have to get up to reset.”

Herman Miller’s Live OS.  We love this option from Fast Company:  Imagine that you’re sitting at your desk, working on a spreadsheet. That’s when you feel a vibration in your hands. Then you see a subtly glowing light. And you realize it’s nearly noon, and you’ve been sitting all morning. So you touch the light and your desk automatically raises to standing level!  Live OS itself is an online platform: Its desks and chairs sync automatically with the cloud, thanks to built-in, encrypted cellular connections. How cool is that?

Think Outside the Chair.  Stability balls or Yoga Ball Chairs go in and out of fashion. Some studies say they are great; others, not so much.  Stalker likes to mix it up. “I switch between a chair and a stability ball throughout the day.  When one area starts to tighten or ache a bit, I move around.

Meetings on the Move.  Another way to easily add a bit of activity to an otherwise sedentary day is to move meetings from the conference room to the outdoors. Walking not only burns calories, but it will help you get outside for a dose of vitamin D and a different environment.

What do you do to offset the effects of sitting??