Each one of us is forever on a journey to be healthier and happier, but it can be hard to do so when you're stuck behind a desk eight or more hours a day. There are all sorts of ways to stay healthy when you sit a lot; however, as many of us have experienced, these changes can be so challenging to permanently incorporate when you're already distracted by emails, texts, meetings, deadlines, and heavy workloads. Let's be honest with ourselves: We want to be healthier at work, but we also want it to be as easy and simple as possible, seamlessly integrated into our jam-packed schedules.
And it turns out that minor adjustments might be the ticket: Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile discovered that the biggest workplace motivator was small but daily progress. Setbacks damage our momentum the most. Instead of committing to 10 hours at the gym a week to try to offset the time you spend sitting, why not start with baby steps that are easier to tackle day to day?
Being healthier when you sit all day doesn't have to be so daunting. Try experimenting with these seven ideas, and you may very well notice an improvement in your overall mental and physical wellbeing.
1. Adjustable Desks
You probably know that too much sitting is bad for you, but just how bad is it, exactly? One study comparing the mortality rates across 54 countries with how much time people spend sitting found that excessive sitting accounted for 3.8 percent of all deaths. Furthermore, more research has found that no amount of exercising can undo the damage caused by too much sitting. Just 30 minutes of less sitting a day could have a significant and positive impact. What's one way to accomplish this? An adjustable desk!
I just bought this portable desk tray on Amazon — and I'm not trying to be dramatic here, but it's changed my life. My hips and knees don't ache. I have more energy. I feel better at the gym. And — no joke — I'm actually happier, and more productive and alert. There are many varieties of this kind of adjustable desk, and it's a wise purchase, without a doubt.
2. Adjust Your Monitor
Sitting too close to your monitor can cause a number of nagging eye problems which, although temporary, can be incapacitating, like eye exhaustion, burning, dryness, and muscle aches. Likewise, setting your computer monitor at the wrong height can lead to headaches, double vision, difficulty focusing your vision, nausea, and dizziness. All of these symptoms fall under a condition known as Computer Visions Syndrome (CVS). So what do you do?
While the ideal situation is to simply spend way less time in front a computer, for many of us, that's not an option. To at the very least lessen the negative side effects, make sure your workplace follows a few guidelines: Place your computer and monitor straight in front of you. Sit about an arm's length away. Align the top of the screen with your eyes so that you're required to look down at your monitor slightly.
3. Find The Right Kind Of Chair
The chair you're sitting in could make all the difference. Big, comfy chairs might feel great to sit in; however, they might also be placing you in an unhealthy posture where you're no longer required to engage the muscles in your core to support yourself. Sitting already kills your metabolism; the further decrease of muscle engagement only worsens it.
A yoga ball chair might be the answer. It can help stimulate your abs and back muscles, improve balance, and will force you into the right position, since you have to support your own back, instead of the chair doing it for you.
4. Chair Yoga
Even while sitting, you can enjoy the benefits of yoga, including better muscle tone and breathing, and less stress. It can even help you sleep better — without ever leaving your chair. Poses like the cat-cow stretch, the reverse warrior, the eagle pose, spinal twists, and forward bends can be done by anyone in any type of chair.
The thing that sucks the most about sitting a lot? Sitting often means that you're being the opposite of active. But, the promising news is that there are little ways to stay active even while you're sitting, too! You can run in place while sitting, moving your legs/feet and pumping your arms. Leg raises work your quads, hips, and abs; and squats (lowering yourself onto your chair and standing up again) are good for literally everything, but especially your glutes. You can also try some of the chair exercises above from a very enthusiastic Denise Austin.
6. Get A Pedometer
Several studies have shown that mostly sedentary people who wear pedometers and set daily goals for themselves become more active and improve their overall wellbeing. In fact, in a summary of 26 separate studies, it was found that people who wore pedometers walked at least 2,000 extra steps every day compared to people who didn't wear pedometers; and it helped them boost their activity levels by 27 percent.
7. Pay Attention To Posture
Poor posture, like sitting, is more detrimental to our health than many of us realize. It can lead to sore muscles, spinal curvature, blood vessel constriction, and nerve constriction. It can cause feelings of depression and lower levels of energy, reduce your life expectancy, and make you feel more stressed out.
When sitting at your desk, your feet should be flat on the floor and your thighs parallel to the ground. Don't cross your legs, and keep your ankles in front of your knees. In addition to avoiding slouching, you shouldn't over-arch your back or neck either. Think of stretching your head toward the ceiling, and tuck your chin in a little bit. Keep your shoulders relaxed — don't try to force them back.