Whenever I meet with a new client, one of the first things we do is go over their typical day. This helps us to recognize their bad habits and figure out how to create good ones. I am always amazed at how much time people spend sitting at their desks each day. One client told me that, aside from bathroom breaks, she'd sit at her desk nonstop from 9AM until she left work for the day at 5PM. That's eight hours of constant sitting!
The fact is, we spend way too much time on our bums. Excessive sitting, even for a little as four hours a day, has severe consequences for our health, including:
- Increasing your risk of developing diabetes by 7% per hour seated
- Increasing your risk of becoming obese by slowing your metabolism
- Increasing your risk of developing heart disease, depression, and certain cancers
When you consider that many people spend way more than four hours in front of a computer each day - and then go home and watch television on the couch - you begin to see how serious a problem sedentary living is for American health.
We've talked before about tips and tricks you can use to break up the day so you aren't trapped at your desk for 8 hours at a time. Whether it's taking frequent stretch breaks, finding a space where you can work on your computer while standing, or actually running your own errands - rather than doing all your shopping online - little modifications can go a long way toward making your workday healthier.
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In addition to those tricks, you can modify many of the exercises you do in the gym to turn your hours at the office into a (very) low-intensity workout than can strengthen your core and build muscle while you work.
To get the benefits of an active lifestyle and combat the dangers of sedentary living, consider adopting this mini exercise program at work.
- Invest in a balance ball. I actually use a balance ball in my exercise program at the gym. They're an excellent tool to help you improve your core strength and balance. Swap out your desk chair for a balance ball for a portion of each day and work your abs while you work on that quarterly report.
- Work your legs under your desk. Although you won't get the same benefit from these exercises that you would at the gym, where you'd be able to add weights to increase resistance, you can do calf raises and quad presses under your desk. You'll not only increase your strength and flexibility, but you'll also boost circulation to your legs, a part of the body that suffers significantly from extended sitting sessions.
- Perfect your posture. Who knew that sitting up straight could be an exercise program? While I wouldn't recommend trading your ergonomic chair for a backless stool, relying too heavily on your chair to keep you comfortable may be weakening your back muscles. Improve your posture - and decrease your likelihood of suffering from lower back pain - by sitting forward (and straight) in your chair. It'll be tough at first, but your muscles will eventually be stronger for it.