Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Many of us spend those hours sitting in a chair behind a desk, going about our daily assignments.
This prolonged sedentary state is not healthy. It may cause you to develop neck and back pain, cause muscle stiffness, increase tiredness, and is also detrimental to weight loss as you’re inactive for long stretches of time most days of the week.
One way to stop this from happening to you is to incorporate active breaks into your work days. Naturally, you need to do so in a way which won’t get you into trouble with your boss, but there are ways in which you can squeeze in just a small dose of activity to help you boost your energy level, move your muscles a bit, reduce stiffness, and even burn a few extra calories. In addition, research shows that breaks from sitting may help reduce chance of the Metabolic Syndrome .
Who knows, you might even find that you’re becoming a more productive employee as a result.
Here are some ways to take an active break at work:
Get Off Your Chair
This is probably the biggest step you can take. Simply by getting up and out of your chair is a big step in making you more active. So, try to stand up as much as possible. You may find that you can conduct your phone conversations this way without it impeding your work. Even taking a short walk to the water cooler to grab a drink of water or to get a cup of coffee and take it back to your desk will suffice.
The bottom line is that I want you to take any opportunity that comes your way to get out of your chair and stand.
Eat Your Lunch Out Of The Office
A lot of people order their lunch to the office. It’s either done to avoid going out or to save time. This is a huge mistake.
Lunch time is the best opportunity to take an active break. It’s even defined as a break. All you need to do is make sure it’s an active one. The first step to doing so is to not order your lunch into the office. Always go to eat outside.
Even if you bring food from home (which is very recommended), go out of the office and eat it at a nearby park or anywhere else.
If you are going out to eat, make sure to eat at a place which requires a few minutes of walking, just to make sure that you’re getting just a little bit of exercise while you can. Naturally, this can’t be done in all weather conditions, so all I’m asking is that you make the most of your lunch break.
Stretch the Kinks Out of Your Joints
One of the easiest ways to avoid muscle stiffness and increase your energy is to do some stretches. Some stretches don’t even require you to get up from your seat. Here are some of the good ones:
- Overhead triceps stretch – Bend your right elbow and bring your forearm over and behind your head. Grab your right elbow with your left and press downward gently until you feel the stretch.
- Overhead stretch – Interlace your fingers and, while sitting straight, stretch both arms up as far as you can.
- Shoulder stretch – Sit up straight. Place your right arm in an horizontal line at the height of your collar bone with your hand pointing to the left. With your left hand, grab your right arm above the elbow and press it gently toward your collar bone until you feel the stretch.
These sitting stretches may be done often even if you work in a stressful job and can’t get up for long stretches of time. If you can get up from your chair, you can perform a variety of other stretches as well. I highly recommend that you do.
Do Some Desk Exercises
I will probably write a dedicated post on the subject of exercises that you can do at your desk in the near future. For now, here are some products that you can use to get a little bit of exercise without rising from your seat:
- Hand grippers – Used to increase grip strength and to work on your arms.
- A small dumbbell – I don’t intend for you to have a 30 pound dumbbell beneath your desk. What I suggest is keeping a small one in a drawer to be able to do bicep curls and other sitting exercises while talking on the phone.
- Tubes and bands – Small workout tubes and bands may also offer you a way to work your muscles while staying in your seat.
Movement Is Key
An active break has one basic principle: movement. The reason why sitting for long hours is bad for you is that you’re not moving. This isn’t how your body was supposed to be. If you’re not sleeping, you have to be active. Your body needs it. So, find any excuse to move about during your day. Do not sit for too long without getting up. Move your muscles whenever you can and you will see and feel a difference.
1. Genevieve N. Healy, David W. Dunstan, Jo Salmon. Breaks in Sedentary TimeBeneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care. 2008 Apr;31(4):661-6. Epub 2008 Feb 5.