Sit, Stand, Move: Tips for a Healthier Workspace

healthy-work-officeI spend a lot of time on my computer. Like, a lot. A whole lot when you consider the fact that so much of what I’m doing on said computer is related to health, fitness and overall well-being.

Because of that, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my keyboard-pounding hours a little less detrimental to my health. I’ve got the standing desk and the unstable seat. I make a point to walk around my office now and again if I’ve been in the same position too long. I focus on trying to maintain proper posture. But is there more I could be doing?

don't just sit there

Turns out, the answer is yes, and I bet that’s the case for you, too. I recently read Don’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Workstation for Whole-Body Health, and it gave me a lot to think about (and incorporate into my daily routine). If you’re looking for some simple ways to make your hours at work a little better for your body, here are a few takeaways. (But there are loads more in the book — if you’re interested in really stepping up your game, I’d recommend giving the whole thing a read.)

5 Tips for Proper Posture and Better Health at Work

1. Don’t just sit there … but don’t just stand there, either. One of the biggest points the book makes is that maintaining any position for hours on end is bad news. If you’re sitting, moving to a standing position now and again is great, but even just crossing your legs back and forth is helpful. If you’re standing, alter your stance and don’t be afraid to incorporate intervals of sitting.

2. Use proper posture. Whether you’re sitting or standing, there are right ways and wrong ways to hold your body. Some are obvious, like keeping your head “ramped up” (i.e. properly stacked with your ears above your shoulders, but without just lifting your chin to tilt your whole head back), but others, like keeping knees soft or holding your ribs down, are less obvious.

3. Think outside the desk. You don’t have to choose between simply standing or sitting at a desk (unless you’re in an office environment that requires you to stick to those positions). If you’re working on a laptop, take it to the floor, stack it on some books and sit on the ground with your legs to the side. Move to a kitchen counter and work from a stool for a bit. Change things up and see what you find challenging and comfortable — that may give you some insight into the parts of your body that could use strengthening and/or stretching.

4. Take frequent, tiny breaks. This is a great tip that can work for just about anyone, even if your office requires you to sit at a standard desk all day long. The author, Katy Bowman, recommends walking for three minutes every half hour of your workday — that adds up to 48 minutes of exercise each day! If possible, also consider setting up a pull-up bar — even if you’re not quite up for chin-ups and pull-ups, it’ll give you a spot to hang for a moment, which will give your body an instant boost. Incorporate other feel-good stretches, too, like calf stretches (hey, you don’t even have to stop typing to do that!), forward bends, etc.

5. Watch your screen time. We know this, don’t we? Regardless of how perfect your posture is, too much time staring at a screen is no good in lots of ways, especially if you’re gazing into that blue light with no natural light around. But also, just as your body shouldn’t remain in one set position for eight hours at a time, your eyes shouldn’t only look at a screen 20 inches away all day long. During your work day, make a point to look away from your screen to a point as far away as possible — take quick glances every five minutes, and extended gazes every half hour.

Let me be clear — this is only a smattering of what the book covered. I mean, there are pictures! And descriptions! And product recommendations! Oh my! But I’m guessing even just the list above has you reevaluating your workspace, doesn’t it?

What are your best tips for making your workstation as conducive to health and fitness as possible? I saw that a friend of mine has taken to bringing small pieces of fitness equipment in each week and encouraging her coworkers to do various exercises with it whenever they come into her office. I love that! —Kristen

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4 Comments

  1. This is so great. Most of us spend too much time sitting, not just at our desks but while we eat, drive and watch video or tv. It’s so important to keep our bodies moving and not get stuck in one place. I’ve created a 30 day challenge that gives participants a daily quick tip and 10 minute workouts for moving better not just when seated but standing, working in the kitchen or walking. I use the power of Pilates to create strong, flexible, balanced postures in your everyday activities. You can find the challenge at http://www.pilateshomepractice.com. I feel so strongly that we must fight back against the increasingly sedentary society most of us live in. Thanks for spreading the word!

  2. I am always aware of watching my screen time, and agree it is important to take a break every so often and have a walk around. Good Tips!

  3. Thank you so much, Kristen, for this powerful reminder. I have been thinking about installing a pull up closer to my work station. Although I love pull-ups, even just hanging for a few seconds would really help stretch and de-stress the shoulders and the back that get tight and hunched from long hours at the desk. Although, i don’t sit with perfect posture all the time, I make it a point not to lean in front, but instead I use the backrest of the chair to lean back and maintain good distance from the screen. Is this okay or is it better to sit without support?