At my last corporate gig, we had to start every meeting with a ‘safety moment’. They drove me bloody insane. They usually went something like this: today, John’s going to talk about the dangers of crossing the road! Seriously! If you haven’t got that sorted by now, I’m afraid you’re failing at this life thing. The safety moments were about as useful as tits on a bull. But there are some real perils that we need to be aware of in corporate jungles.
Sore neck? Back pain? Feeling stiff and sore from sitting on your ass all day looking like Quasimodo? These are definitely first world problems. But anyone who’s suffered through chronic pain from desk-bounditis (pretty sure that’s a thing!) will tell you it’s no joke. The shift from manual labour to sedentary office work has had major impacts on our health. So, I put together a list of my top 5 tips to keep you mobile and in a good position throughout the day.
1. Sit-Stand Workstation
Depending on which study you read, sitting down all day could increase your risk of becoming obese, dying early, or developing a range of diseases. They’re pretty big claims and only time will reveal if sitting really is the new smoking. But I can say that after spending over 15 years in a typical desk job, I developed bad posture and poor mobility. My quads and hip flexors are especially tight from being stuck in a shortened position all day.
What’s clear from the research is that more movement means better health. A sit-stand workstation is an easy way to change your position throughout the day. One study reported that you could burn 170 extra calories a day by standing!
There are endless hacks you can throw together on the cheap before investing in a dedicated sit-stand workstation. Here are a couple of things you’ll need to know before you give it a shot:
- Standing workstations are just as bad as sitting if not set up correctly. Your keyboard (get one if using a laptop) needs to be below the monitor. See this guide for set up info.
- You’ll need a standing desk mat to prevent fatigue. These are a necessary. If you're just starting out, you can use a yoga mat or other foam pads to stand on. But long term, I’d recommend investing in a decent mat. I researched a lot of mats and went with the Imprint CumulusPRO Professional Grade. It’s well priced (about $60 with shipping) and high quality.
- Stick with the sit-stand workstation for at least a couple of months to get used to it. I was able to stand easily stand for 2+ hours straight off the bat, and have been able to go up to 4+ hours a day standing.
- The idea of the sit-stand workstation is to move regularly throughout the day. Change positions by standing, sitting, Captain Morgan poses, or balancing on your head.
2. Save Your Eyes
Staring at a computer screen all day feels about as natural as a poke in the eye with a hot stick! My vision started to go downhill quickly after working in an office for a few years. To reduce eyestrain and fatigue, I started using the 20-20-20 Rule. It’s really simple. Set a timer on your computer with Big Stretch Reminder for PC or Time Out for Mac. Every 20 minutes your timer goes off. You then look away from the screen for 20 seconds at an object about 20 feet away. I like to add some movement by doing some shoulder or head rotations. Staring off into the distance also makes you look like a philosopher deep in thought. This will make those annoying coworkers think twice before interrupting your daily musings.
3. Move More!
Sitting on your ass all day (AKA being sedentary) has been shown to increase the risk of developing a whole host of health problems from obesity to cardiovascular disease. Simply switching to a sit-stand workstation isn’t enough. You need to make it your job to keep moving throughout the day.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is the number of calories you spend per day outside of exercise. Everything from tapping your foot under your desk to stealthily avoiding that weird old guy who talks your ear off uses NEAT. What’s interesting about NEAT is that it can burn a significant number of calories per day. So don’t underestimate how important movement can be to staying healthy and lean. One study reported up to 350 extra calories a day being burned through NEAT. That could result in weight loss of around 30 lbs per year, without considering exercise. Here are my go-to tips for moving more in corporate battlefields:
- Whenever I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll walk the longest way possible, or go down the fire stairs to another floor. For bonus points, walk or jog back up the stairs to some Rocky theme music or do ten jumping jacks in the fire stairs. You get the blood flowing and feel refreshed.
- If you’re down the hall from a coworker, go chat instead of sending an email off. The last thing we all need is more emails to keep us on our ass and staring at the screen!
- When doing the 20-20-20 rule, add in some mobility work. If you’re worried about being the weird guy doing exercises in his cubicle, pick some low key stretches you can do while sitting and standing.
- Drink lots of water. This does two things: 1) keeps you hydrated and 2) causes you to get up and take more bathroom breaks. And now you’re going to be doing some extra movement every time you take a bathroom break, aren’t you?
- When taking a longer call on your mobile, get up and take it standing. Do this at your desk if you can without pissing off your neighbours.
4. Target Poor Posture
My posture turned pear shape after years of office work. Forward neck. Check. Rounded shoulders. Yes. Just think about the number of hours we spend in front of a computer before things get bad. If it took years of bad posture for the body to break down, you’re going to need to put in a lot of hours to fix issues. An easy way to do this is to set up a rule to make building new habits easy. For example, every time your 20-minute timer goes off, while looking away from the screen you do band pull aparts. This helps with hunched shoulders. You can also do chin tucks or any other exercises that target specific posture or pains. By breaking down exercises into small chunks you do throughout the day, you’ll be able to put in a lot of reps.
5. Don’t Sit at Your Desk for Lunch
It’s easy to get caught up in work and eat lunch at your desk. There are issues with this beyond chunks of food getting wedged in between your keyboard and growing legs. As with all the other points in this post, you want to keep moving. So, take your lunch and go outside. This does wonders for your body by giving you a mental and physical break away from the screen. You’ll also get fresh air (remember that stuff), sunshine (daily dose of vitamin d), and add in some walking. I like to set a simple target of 5-10 minutes of walking every day. So at lunch, I would eat my food, then go for a short walk around the block. Then jog up the stairs to Rocky theme music. Bring on the afternoon!
Start Moving More - Take Action!
I write to share my experiences and knowledge with you. But my ultimate goal is to give you information that’ll help you eat, move, and live optimally. Get these right, and you’ll transform your body and change your life. So, I like to end each post with some actionable steps you can take immediately.
To get the most out of this post, commit to trying ONE (don’t try them all at once) of the above methods for fighting office hunchback syndrome. Do this right now, before the opportunity passes. If you really can’t drop everything, write a reminder on a post-it note and stick it to your forehead for later. Decision creates action. Action creates results.
Add a comment below and let me know if any of these approaches have worked for you in the past, or which you’re going to try.
Finally, if you want help in putting together a customised program to move better, book a free consultation with me.
P.S. If you liked this post, I’d owe you one if you could get it out there by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on social media (it helps a lot!). You might also be interested in my free e-book: The Battle Tested Body Transformation Guide.