Whatever industry you work in, you know the aches and pains of staying in one place for too long. It’s a common misconception that standing all day is physically more difficult than sitting all day. But with new data showing that our sedentary lifestyles have lasting negative impacts, which one is right?
It turns out, both sitting and standing all day can cause serious health problems. The best way to stay healthy at work is to alternate. But how do you stay productive while making sure to give your body what it needs? The answer is in movement.
The Office Revolution
There are definite upsides to our modern life. You can get to where you’re going without breaking a sweat, in your car or by public transport. We work indoors, instead of long, punishing hours in all weathers.
But the impact that this sedentary lifestyle has had on our bodies doesn’t suggest that we’ve found a way to a healthier workday. From long-term effects caused by slouching in front of the desk, eye strain, headaches, higher cholesterol, and even depression and insomnia, your office job comes with a lot of strain on your health.
Demanding Physical Jobs
Recent data would suggest that the trick is to ensure you’re standing more. Standing and treadmill desks in offices are considered a great way to keep you from spending too much time sitting at a desk. And it is true that finding ways to get your workout in is becoming easier, thanks to desk-sized workout equipment, and a renewed interest in physical fitness at the office.
But the reality is that standing too much at work can also cause problems. These could include:
- Blood clots
- Varicose veins
- Bunions, corns, and other painful foot conditions
- Problems with posture
- Chronic pains, especially of the lower back and hips, leading to musculoskeletal disorders
- Increased risk of heart conditions
… and more.
As you can see, there are upsides and downsides to both sitting and standing jobs. The takeaway seems to be that staying still in any job will result in everything from heart problems, musculoskeletal conditions, and even negatively impact your mental health.
So what choices do we have? Before you decide to make a drastic career change for the sake of your health, consider these tips for staying healthy while at work, no matter whether you’re sitting or standing.
Based on the data we have, the answer isn’t as cut and dried as swapping sitting for standing and vice versa. Instead, work toward a more flexible workplace, which incorporates both. If you need to be standing, try to stay on the move as you do it.
Standing desks sound like a good idea in theory, but they come with some health risks of their own. Treadmill desks are a good way to keep moving and create a healthier office atmosphere.
For more demanding jobs, such as those in the service sector, keep an eye on your break times, and when there’s a lull, choose to sit, rather than standing in place.
Sticking to fast food options for your lunch break just increases your risk of heart conditions, high cholesterol and other health problems. Choose healthy options for your at-desk meals and snacks, and try to bring a lunch from home, or think outside the takeout box. Does your office offer free coffee? Remember to stay hydrated. Cut down your caffeine, and drink more water instead. And remember to take time to eat a healthy breakfast before going into work!
Find Ways To Work Movement Into Your Day
When it comes to staying healthy, it’s the little choices that matter most. Finding ways to work movement into your schedule can help mitigate the effects of staying in one position for too long. There are plenty of surprisingly creative ways to work movement into your workday. Try these, and find what works for you:
- Park further away from the building
- Take the stairs
- Invest in an under-the-desk elliptical machine, a fitness ball or a wobble cushion
- Take a walk during your break
- Every time you go to the toilet, drink a glass of water. This will not only keep you hydrated, but will also encourage frequent toilet breaks
- Use a productivity app: these time you when you working on a specific task, but give you regular 5-minute breaks as well. During these breaks, you can walk, stretch or even perform some mini-workouts
Think about your work environment and where you can reasonably incorporate more movement into your schedule. It may not seem like much, but making sure to keep moving can have a huge impact over time. Researchers have learned that ideally, you should be incorporating movement into your workday every 30 minutes.
Take Shorter Breaks More Often
Whether you’re working a sitting or standing job, how you take your breaks matters. If you’re taking your break at your desk, chances are, you’re still operating in work-mode, which means you’re not giving your body or brain the break it needs.
Longer breaks mean less opportunity to recharge your brain. Instead of going for an hour-long meal break, talk to HR about taking two shorter breaks, if your schedule will allow it.
If you’re tied to the longer single break, make use of it. Distract yourself from work. If you’re in a sitting job, get up, take a walk. If you’re standing all day, take the time to actually sit (or lie) down, get off your feet, and recharge your mind.
Take In The Scenery
Even if your break involves sitting, there’s plenty of research that shows off the health benefits to time outdoors. Time outside reduces stress, the effects of inflammation, and chronic pain, and even boosts your immune system.
If you can find a way to take your lunch break outside, or simply park further away, to get in your fresh air and exercise, it can help deal with the problems of being on your feet, or sitting in an office all day.
Most importantly: Talk to Your Employer
Sometimes, staying on your feet, or spending hours hunched in front of a computer screen is unavoidable. A big project is due, you’re gunning for a promotion, or you’re simply too busy to take breaks.
But that’s not always the case. Not moving for a prolonged time is often not necessary at all, and certainly not worth the potential health issues. When you’re feeling overloaded, chained to your office, take the time to talk to HR.
Often a simple change in the schedule can lead to better results, for you and your job. After all, no one wants chronic pain, a lower immune system, or stress to impact your work. You’d be surprised how willing your workplace is to be flexible about your schedule, and your health concerns. After all, you are your employers most valuable asset. As your health is yours.