How to Counter the Health Risks of Sitting for too Long
Most us no longer work in industry or in trades. Instead, we sit at a desk in front of a computer all day. Evidence is mounting that this is bad for us. It is certainly sedentary, you are not burning calories at more than a background rate while focused on that spreadsheet.
Many studies claim that on average we sit for over 9 hours a day, couple this with the fact we are recommended to get 8 hours sleep a night and we have 17 hours from 24 completely stationary and inactive.
For more on the risks from continued sitting, check out this detailed report / pdf which was commissioned by the department of health. When you see links to cancers, diabetes and other chronic conditions, it makes for sobering reading!
With some planning, you can get some extra exercise during working hours. This might not be able to completely account for those hours of sitting – though it will burn some calories and get your blood flowing.
As you will see below, many options do not need much in the way of fancy equipment. In fact, simply getting up and taking a quick walk every 30 minutes is a lot better than nothing.
Stand-Up / Adjustable Desks
These are simply desks which are adjustable, meaning you can alter the height and choose to sit or stand at your desk. Standing at your desk for a few hours a day will increase blood flow and give your lower back a break.
Adjustable desks are becoming more commonplace and are now much more of a realistic choice for everyone with many different desks on the market to suit all budgets.
Try and bring it up at the next staff meeting and urge your boss to upgrade the office with adjustable desks. If you prefer, you can get laptop stands which allow you to work standing up. Examples include this fully adjustable model from Ergoneer and this robust, impressive model from AirRise.
Balance Boards and Exercise Balls
This takes adjustable desks that bit further. A balance board is simply a flat board with a built-in roll cage underneath that you stand on while at your desk. As the name suggests you have to shift your weight to stay balanced and you engage your core to do so.
Granted it is not the most intense workout you will ever have, but balance boards are great fun as well as an awesome conversation starter. Get one and you will be the coolest person in the office in no time.
An exercise ball is makes a great alternative to a chair. You’ll use your legs to keep stable, and even some gentle movement will engage your core muscles as well as those legs.
You don’t need to use either all day, in fact switching around has the benefit of getting you out of that chair! The best seller in this category is the ProWorks ball, this comes with a pump and is a bargain for the flexibility it gives you. Check out the product page here, or click the picture below.
I understand these will not be attainable for everybody due to the size and cost, but if you have an awesome boss or perhaps work from your own home office then you should really consider a treadmill desk.
They are exactly what they say on the tin – a standing desk with a treadmill underneath. The treadmills are configured to go slower than regular treadmills. The point is not to get a run in at work, but to maintain slow but constant movement throughout the day.
While it will take some getting used to you will soon barely notice yourself moving and will be able to get on with your work as normal while burning calories and promoting good health.
Here is an pro level treadmill desk, I’d love to have one of these myself for those hours of writing!
- Motor: 2.5HP High Torque Continuous Duty Motor; Running Belt: 51cm x 148cm (20" x 58.2'');
- Speed Range: 0.6 - 6kph (0.3 - 3.7mph) with Slow, Medium, Fast Direct Speed Keys;
- Console Feedback: Speed, Time, Distance, Calories, Program + 5-Second Scanning Function;
Under-Desk Exercise Bike
Another cool and innovative idea. The desk cycle is a very small take on an exercise bike that just sits under your desk. You simply strap your feet into the pedals and away you go. They’re small, quiet and effective.
Whether or not you should use the desk cycle may depend on your current fitness level. This is likely the most intense workout you can have in your desk and some users have reported that they’re a little too hot and sweaty for an office environment after only 30 minutes. In other words, it feels more like a real workout than a low-level activity that is best while working.
Gym Mate make one of the most popular models – check out my review of the Gym Mate Under Desk Mini Exerciser here.
Exercise Bands and Hand Grip Strength Tools
You’ll need understanding colleagues, or a spare room to hide away in to benefit from exercise bands. These are literally extra-large rubber bands that can be used in a number of ways for exercise. While at your desk you can put the band around your ankles and work your legs and bum by simply straining against the band. My review of the Freetoo bands covers them in more detail.
When you are taking a break from work you can easily do some upper body exercises too. These are super cheap and very versatile making them great value for money.
Hand grip strengheners have a spring and two handles, you can squeeze them together. This is not much in the way of exercise, though a lot better than nothing. Keep switching hands, or you might end up with one forearm much more muscled than the other! These are inexpensive, and small enough to hide away in your desk draw. These ones, from CellDeal, are fully adjustable and have a quirky look!
Desk Routines with No Equipment Necessary
So far, this list is full of different pieces of fitness equipment that can aid you in staying active at work, however it should be said that they are a lot of things you can do without any equipment:
- Take a stroll during lunch
- Use the stairs as opposed to the lift
- Simple standing exercises and stretches a few times a day (even some squats)
- Have walking meetings outside rather than sat in your office
- Wall sit (back straight against wall and legs at 90 degrees)
- Tap your feet
- Squeeze and hold your muscles together for 5-10 seconds then release
Keeping Fit at Your Desk: Final Thoughts
It is easy to start off with good intentions to reduce some of the harm done by sitting all day – only to forget about it soon after. I recommend you make this a habit and set reminders on your phone a couple of times a day to make sure you keep going.
Of course, these desk exercises are only to stop the damage from being seated. To really get the benefits of fitness, you’ll need more vigorous workouts. Whether you choose some home fitness equipment, join a gym or go out for a run is a matter of personal tastes. There are plenty of guides right here at fitness review to help you get started.
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