How to keep active in the workplace and stop sitting

Having a strong work ethic is an admirable quality, but is it worth damaging your health for?

While you are sitting at your desk working, it’s important to know that you may be slowly harming your overall health. The effects are gradual but they can be very serious.

So, the question is, how do you minimise the negative impacts of sedentary office lifestyle?

Why sitting for too long at work is a health risk

Studies show that prolonged periods of sitting impact the body as well as our mental health and cognitive abilities.

  • It’s known that the risk of developing anxiety and depression is higher for those who sit for extended periods of time.
  • A study from Liverpool John Moores University found that extended periods of sitting limits the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain by reducing blood circulation. This can make it harder to think clearly and focus at work. It can also negatively impact your memory.
  • Sitting negatively impacts musculoskeletal health. Long hours at your desk can put increased stress on ligaments and increase the likeliness of misalignment of bones and joints. Not to mention it significantly increases general soreness and stiffness especially within the lower and mid back regions.
  • A sedentary lifestyle is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and for developing type 2 diabetes.

6 ways to stay active at the office

We know all about the stiffness and soreness which comes from sitting for a long period of time, just think about the last long-haul flight you went on.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to get active within the work day and minimise the amount of time that you spend in a sedentary position. The key is to get moving. The more you can move and the more you can get your blood flowing the better it is for your overall health and wellbeing.

Here are a few of the ways get active throughout the work day:

  1. Take regular breaks
    One of the simplest steps you can take to promote better health at work is to commit to taking regular breaks. The Heart Foundation recommends taking a break every 30 minutes. To get into this habit, and try setting a timer for every half hour. Get up from your desk and get a drink of water, stretch, or walk outside to get some fresh air.
  2. Incorporate desk exercises into your workday
    Do desk exercises throughout the day. There are several exercises you can do whilst sitting at your desk. These movements can help to boost blood flow, take pressure off your spine, and prevent stiffness and poor posture. Here are a few exercises you can try.
  • Trunk Twists: Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your feet and hips still, gently rotate your body to the right as far as comfortable. Return to face forwards and rotate your body as far to the left as comfortable. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each side.
  • Back Extensions: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Slowly arch backwards from the hips as far as comfortable, ensuring that your hips do not track over your toes. Hold for 2 seconds and stand up straight before moving your weight forward and holding for 2 seconds.
  • Chest Stretches: Clasp both hands behind your back. Move your arms away from your body until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
  1. Use the stairs as much as possible
    If you have stairs in your workplace, use them to get a little exercise during the workday. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator when you are goa coupleof the bloagsing somewhere. If you can, walk up and down a flight of stairs as one of your regular work breaks.
  2. Set up walking meetings
    Talk to your co-workers about organising walking meetings. Instead of having everyone sit around a table or meet in the lounge, plan on walking around. You may find that walking during meetings is also more productive as you’ll feel more relaxed and focused as you move and increase blood flow.
  3. Leave your desk for lunch and breaks
    When you have your lunch break or other scheduled breaks, use the time to get your body moving. Walk outside to eat your lunch and if you have time, go for a short walk. Even a five or ten-minute walk while breathing fresh air will leave you feeling revitalised and more ready to get back to work.
  4. Stay active after work

If you sit for prolonged periods while you work, it’s even more important to maintain an active lifestyle outside of the workplace. Consider taking a yoga or pilates class. Start a walking or running group with a friend or join your local indoor rock climbing gym. And, be sure to limit your sedentary hours at home on the couch.

Make functional movement a part of your workday
Movement is the key to staying active. You don’t need to come to work in your athletic gear and plan a full workout each day to stay healthy in the workplace. Simply making a conscious effort to regularly get up from your desk and move around can make a tremendous difference.