As it turns out, I don't move enough...
Di Westaway | CEO Wild Women On Top
I was the kid who couldn’t keep still. Sunday school was a nightmare. I fidgeted my way through primary school. Even sitting through a movie was a super challenge if I didn’t have a bucket of salty popcorn.
I’m from the generation that climbed trees, did cartwheels on the nature strip for hours and rode bikes till dark.
But now, for the first time in my life, I’m stuck, actually stuck, at a desk for 8 hours a day.
My body doesn’t like it. Neither does my mind. It doesn’t make me feel good. And when I burst into exercise like I used to, stuff breaks.
I’m not alone. There are millions of Aussies who sit all day long. Our shift to doing seated cerebral work in super comfortable chairs has made us sick. Work ill-health and absenteeism are now estimated to cost $7 billion a year in Australia.
Studies prove healthier workers are not only happier, but more productive as well.
The Workplace Health Association of Australia’s recent report found that stress and physical inactivity, the leading preventable health risks, were way too high.
A survey of 30,000 workers found that 65 per had high stress levels, while 41 per cent had psychological distress levels considered to be “at risk”. Half were physically inactive, with 40 per cent overweight and another 20 per cent obese.
We know sitting is the new smoking.
So, what can we do?
Well, you can’t wait for your boss to invest in treadmill or hamster wheel desks. And standing all day won’t work either. Research show that if you have a sedentary job, you have to move for 2 – 4 hours, as well as doing a workout EVERY day.
If your job, or your lifestyle, keeps you moving, you are one of the lucky ones. I used to be a PE teacher and aerobics instructor. Now I’ve traded in my whistle and leg warmers for corporate get-up and i-Crap. Being CEO definitely isn’t great for your health.
I try to stay active, but it turns out that sitting on a Swiss ball; riding my bike to the office; walking 10,000 steps a day; doing yoga twice a week and walking around the building while I’m on the phone is still NOT enough to keep my brain & body, healthy.
Guidelines published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medcine recommend desk-based office workers spend at least two to four hours of their working day standing or moving.
The guidelines recommend:
- Regularly breaking up seated-based work with standing-based work, with the use of adjustable sit-stand desks or work stations
- Avoiding prolonged static standing, which may be as harmful as prolonged sitting
- Altering posture or light walking to alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and fatigue while you adapt to more standing or moving
- Warning staff about the potential dangers of too much time sitting down either at work or at home.
Another study showed that walking for two minutes an hour, instead of sitting, can significantly lower your risk for premature death.
So, you need to move all the time for basic body and brain function and you need to puff a bit every day for cardiovascular and brain health.
Here’s six ideas to get your moving in the office … but warn your boss first or they might think you’re weird.
Do small movements and stretches continuously throughout the day. Kneel up on a cushion while you work for 10 minutes every hour. Or sit on the edge of your chair with one foot on the floor and the other ankle on your knee to stretch your piriformis, a muscle deep in your hip. Switch legs throughout the day.
Just stretching your arms overhead up or dangling from a door frame for one minute every hour will reverse some of the effects of sitting. And stand up in your meetings while you stretch your hip flexors by pulling one heel in towards your bum. (careful you don’t tumble over)
Apps like Move remind you to take an active break at various intervals during your day. Or you could just set an hourly alarm on your phone to remind you to have a wiggle and a giggle!
Walk, Talk and Stretch
Save up four or five work phone calls and make them all on a walk around the office neighborhood. Or ask your 2 p.m. meeting to join you on a stroll instead of in the conference room. Walking for just two minutes every half-hour can make a huge difference to your arterial health. And you can use the edge of a step to stretch your lower calves and foot tendons while standing and talking on the phone.
When you’re forced to sit for sustained periods, don’t stay in your chair with your hips at a 90-degree angle. Sit cross-legged on the ground, lounge in a bean bag, lie on a yoga mat for tummy time or move from the couch to the desk every hour to break up your body’s geometry.
Wear or change into comfortable cushioned shoes and get outside in nature in your lunch break. You’ll feel rejuvenated for the afternoon.
Get your workmates together for a bit of pre-lunch zen time. A few headstands, backbends and downward dogs are great for energising your afternoon as well as getting your body moving.
And if your boss isn’t yet aware of the benefits to productivity, share this with them and get your happy body at work. You’ll not only be healthier and happier, you’ll be more productive, take less sick days and you’ll live longer!