Many people set aside time to go to the gym or make exercise plans outside of work. However, there are ways to remain active even while at a seated desk job.
Sitting for long periods of time is detrimental. Destination Fitness expert and owner Jill Lindberg as well as Lindsay Boeke, site director at Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center in Huntley share their expertise.
“Sitting for long periods of time, even if you are physically fit, puts you at a greater risk of premature death,” says Lindberg. “Regardless of whether a person exercises regularly or not, sedentary periods increase the likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Desk chair sitting structurally puts great strain on your neck, shoulders and lower back. Much of this may be attributed to an improper desk chair or improper height of desk and computer monitor.”
Boeke says research has linked sitting for long periods of time to many health concerns, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, elevated blood pressure, muscle degeneration (weak legs and back), and many more. “The key is to break up the long periods of sitting with exercise throughout the day,” she says.
Lindberg recommends sitting on a fit ball instead of a chair as a great option to fight being sedentary. She also suggests using a standing desk.
Boeke encourages finding ways to stand up as often as possible during the day.
“At the very least, you should plan to get up and move once every hour you are sitting,” Boeke says. She also recommends standing during phone calls, walking around the building, getting up to speak to coworkers, and other activities such as taking the stairs and parking far away from the entrance.
Lindberg suggests meeting time equals standing time or walking time. “Have standing meetings in the conference room or have meetings outdoors while on a walk.”
But sitting doesn’t necessarily end at the end of the workday.
“When at home, stand up during commercial breaks during TV time or walk in the house while on the phone,” Lindberg says. She encourages a 30 minute vibrating alarm on your cell phone as a reminder to do so.
“Simple tasks to break up your day like this will help,” Boeke says. “Walking burns 3 to 5 times more calories than sitting so take every opportunity to get up.”
• Remind yourself to sit up straight in your chair. Keep both feet on the floor, shoulders relaxed and arms at approximately 90 degrees and remind yourself to not lean forward.
• Change out your office chair for a stability ball. This will force you to sit up straight and engage your core.
• Sitting in your chair, nice and tall, extend one leg out just far enough that it isn’t touching the floor. Roll each ankle in a circle one at a time. Repeat 20 times per leg/ankle.
• Still sitting, move forward in your seat a few inches and place your arms behind you, thumbs facing down. You should reach back toward your chair and feel a stretch at the top of your chest, shoulders and upper arms. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
— Lindsay Boeke, Site Director, Centegra Health Bridge Fitness Center in Huntley
• Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch. Do each leg 15 times.
• To work your chest and shoulders, place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower yourself back down but stop short of the seat, hold for a few seconds. Do this 15 times.
• To stretch your back and strengthen your biceps, place your hands on the desk and hang on. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you’re looking at the floor. Then slowly pull yourself back in. Do this 15 times.
— Suzanne Janusz Certified Personal Trainer Destination Fitness