It’s common knowledge that passengers aboard an airplane should get up and walk around to prevent their blood from clotting. Most people probably assume this issue is confined to airflight, however, the culprit – something called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – also commonly occurs in bus and car passengers, movie theater attendees, and even people seated at their desks in an office. What happens is, blood slows and clots when a person sits still for long periods of time (generally four hours or more), without any muscle movement to keep it pumping.
But DVT is just the most immediate risk we focus on when talking about a sedentary lifestyle. There are many more, long-term issues that arise from sitting for most of the day, which unfortunately, most of us do.
Despite more flexible office jobs, the average American sits at a desk for eight to nine hours per day. Throw in dinner and a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show and you’re looking at 12 hours of immobility. Isn’t that a bit staggering?
Your core, glutes, hip flexors and back are greatly affected by long bouts of sitting, which creates pain, poor posture and immobility. These factors then lead to an unwillingness to move, dragging you (and me) down into an even more stagnant lifestyle. Standing and walking keeps the muscles in the body engaged, and therefore, stronger and more flexible. But the more you stay still, the less you want to move.
Then there’s your brain. Movement in the muscles creates a constant flow of oxygen and blood to the brain as well. The more muscle movement, the more mood- and brain- enhancing chemicals get released into your brain. Enter happiness and stress relief via delightful chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins that release when we move and exercise. Basically, you will think more clearly and feel better when you stand or move throughout the day.
So, how do we manage to keep it moving in a world of desk jobs and screen-centric entertainment? These silly lists telling us to do squats and push ups at work are just not helping. There are more realistic ways of staying healthy while working 40-plus hours a week
1. Commit to a Better Exercise Routine
Most of us say we don’t have time to squeeze in a workout. But is that really true? On average, people in the United States work from nine to five. Up until you leave your house at 8:30 or so, what are you doing? And when you get home around 5:30, or on your lunch break for that matter?
Thirty minutes of walking or light exercise per day will get your blood moving and your muscles engaged, releasing endorphins and building up all-around strength. Bring your lunch from home and take 15-30 minutes to eat lunch, then take a walk outside or go to the gym for the remaining 30-45. You won’t even lose any time out of your day.
If you’re a morning person, commit to the gym or taking a walk before work two times a week. Or if you just can’t bear getting up earlier, try that same two-day-a-week routine after work. Once you get in the routine, it’s more doable than you think.
2. Ask for a Standing Desk
This isn’t as “diva” of a move as it used to be. Even small companies have to admit that science says sitting for too long is harmful to the body and the brain. And lucky for you, today there is a wide range of pricing and options out there. Your employer won’t have to spend a fortune on the most innovative model.
There are both basic converter desks and trendier collapsibles on the market. Multi-person standing desks are another alternative which could benefit the entire office by creating a common place to stand and work throughout the day.
Check out a few options and propose a reasonable choice to the decision makers. You may be surprised at how receptive they are. Who knows, you may inspire them to get one too.
3. Excuses to Get Up and Move Around
Make sure you’re getting up and walking around the office once every hour. Set a calendar reminder, and don’t you dare snooze it. My favorite thing to do is to take a phone call outside and walk or pace around the office. It’s miles more enjoyable than feeling chained to my desk and makes the time fly by.
Another option is to find an excuse to go visit a friend in a different department. Deem that friend your new walking buddy so you can take a break together every hour or two to get some fresh air.
There has been study after study on this topic, small and large, showing that some movement is better than no movement. One of these recent studies showed that office workers who walked for 30 minutes a day, whether spread into 5 minute increments or all in one shot, reported less fatigue, less food cravings and more energy over all. Um, sold.
4. Drink More Water
At the very least, we implore you to drink water and avoid sugary, uber-caffeinated drinks (which just dehydrate you further). Dehydration has a negative impact on the mind and body, and it can happen quickly. If you’re not taking in more water than you are losing, you can easily become dehydrated.
Some subtle signs that you may be dehydrated are tiredness, sleepiness or headaches, which most of us probably feel from time to time at the office. Drinking more water will not only help you avoid those symptoms, it can also help you to feel more full, and in turn, snack less. Less snacking equals less calories taken in, which will help to manage weight. Here’s a few ways to help you stop slacking on your water intake:
- Bring a water bottle and keep fillin’ er’ up
- Drink water with every snack or meal
- Don’t drink too much caffeine or sugary drinks; they can dehydrate you
- Try sparkling waters for some added fizzy fun
- Eat water-rich foods like cucumber, zucchini, watermelon or grapefruit
Waiting to get started on a new office routine is only hurting you. The sluggish, unmotivated feeling you have after sitting for four hours is no coincidence, and it’s time to nip it with some of these simple changes to your routine. Finding a friend to keep you accountable you will help. There’s no time like the present.
As an employer, encouraging your team to get moving will benefit the overall health of the employees and the business. Splurge on a standing station or incentivize them with group step competitions or team standing challenges – the fact that you care will be a motivator in itself. Plus, you’ll create an ideal environment for team bonding, and your employees will likely feel more positive and alert. Not to mention become healthier and happier with time.