Stand Up! How to avoid the health risks of a sedentary job

If you spend your workday sitting at a desk, your health might be in danger. But what can you do, if sitting down all day…
Stand Up! How to avoid the health risks of a sedentary job

Get off that office desk for improved health. (Shutterstock)

If you spend your workday sitting at a desk, your health might be in danger. But what can you do, if sitting down all day is the nature of your job?

Many of us have already heard the research on the effect of a sedentary lifestyle: If you spend 11 hours a day or more sitting, whether at a job or at home, you increase your risk of metabolic disease, heart attack and stroke. According to research from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, that much sitting can increase your risk of death by 40 percent.

SEE ALSO: Don’t leave your office chair to get in shape

Similarly, research from the American Cancer Society suggests that women who spend over six hours sitting per day are 37 percent more likely to die early than those who sit for just three hours. Men’s rate of earlier death is 18 percent.

Unfortunately, it’s tough to avoid being sedentary when your job requires that you use a computer. The good news is that as more people are recognizing the dangers of too much sitting, they’re coming up with innovative solutions—like standing desks or swiss balls for chairs—that help keep our bodies in motion during the day. There are things you can do to avoid sitting at the office desk all day.

If you’re concerned about the health risks of too much sitting, try one of these methods to get off your bottom and stay active at work.

Standing or Walking Desk

A treadmill desk is a modren ergonomic solution for those who want to stand while working on their computer.

FILE PHOTO-Josh Baldonado, an administrative assistant at Brown & Brown Insurance, works at a treadmill desk in the firms offices in Carmel, Ind.  Workers sign up for 30 slots with treadmills and have their phone and computer transferred to the workstations.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

If sitting is bad for your health, there’s a logical alternative: Don’t sit!

Standing and walking desks are gaining popularity as a means of moving while working. The concept is simple: Raise your desk to the level you need it to be while standing, and suddenly you’ve eliminated the need to sit.

If you want to take this even further, you can get (or make) a walking desk. This involves suspending your desk over a treadmill and then setting the treadmill at a nice walking pace, so that you can concentrate on work but still keep your body in motion.

According to NPR’s Marketplace, companies such as Facebook and Citrix have embraced this trend, encouraging employees to stand or walk at work.

While you can certainly buy a standing desk, you can also make your own version, as explained on Lifehacker. Creating a walking desk is a little bit more complicated, but if you have the space and money to set up a treadmill under your work area, you’ll reap extra benefits: according to Runners World, you burn approximately 89 calories per mile while walking at an average pace. You can cover a lot of miles if you walk for part of your workday!

Change Up Your Chair: Swiss Balls 

Small waist on a stability ball

It’s not just for exercise. You can try sitting on a stability ball in place of your office chair for better posture. (Shutterstock)

There has been a lot of debate over whether swiss (stability) balls do much to reduce the risks of a sedentary job, and it comes down to this: If used correctly, they can help you stay active and burn calories during work. On the other hand, if they’re used incorrectly, they’ll do nothing to reduce your health risks and may in fact lead to back pain.

The trick is knowing when and how to use your new, spherical chair. First of all, to engage your abdominal and stabilizer muscles, the ball needs to be well-inflated. If you’re simply sinking into it, you won’t need to use your core to make those minute adjustments as you sit atop the ball, and you’ll likely fall into a poor posture.

Second, it’s not advisable to use the swiss ball all the time. If you truly sit for the majority of your workday, make sure you also have an ergonomically supportive desk chair; if you use the swiss ball exclusively, you may get lower back pain, since it offers little support in that area.

On the other hand, while you are sitting on the swiss ball, make it work for you: Small hip rotations from side to side or front to back, “bouncing” from foot to foot, or other low-intensity movements can help engage some of your core muscles while still allowing you to concentrate on work.

Walking Conference

Doing office meetings while taking a walk could be good for your health.

Tired of sitting? Ask your coworkers if they’d like to do a conference while taking a refreshing walk. (Shutterstock)

Apart from changing your personal work environment, you can lessen your time sitting by arranging meetings differently.

This, of course, takes buy-in from the rest of the office, but if you can get that, you have a few options:

–       When conducting group meetings, provide clipboards or ask attendees to bring them. That way, you can hold a meeting while everyone is standing, which both gives you a chance to get on your feet and keeps listeners awake.

–       If you’re meeting one-on-one with someone, propose taking a walk instead of sitting. This burns calories and can also stimulate ideas on both ends, since physical activity activates the brain.

–       If you’re making a call or attending a meeting on the phone, stand up and walk around: maybe take a lap around the building, if you don’t need to be at your desk, or use the time on the phone to do some low-key stretches, calf raises, or other exercises that don’t take your attention away from the conversation.

You can extend this idea to simple communication, too, when appropriate: if you’re trying to hash out a solution with a colleague, stand up and walk over to see him or her instead of emailing.

It’s About the Little Things

Finally, even if you can’t radically modify your workspace, you can take small steps to make your workday less sedentary, according to the Huffington Post:

–       Stand up and walk at least once every hour.

–       Use the stairs, not the elevator.

–       Stretch or do low-impact exercises in your workspace, such as side bends, push-ups, or leg lifts.

Simply by adding a little bit of movement to your daily routine, you’ll combat the health risks of spending all of that time on your bottom. So get moving: you’ll thank yourself later!

SEE ALSO: How to grow your legs