We’ve all heard by now that sitting is the new smoking. You’d think that information would scare us as a country and, much like how we reacted to studies on smoking, we would find ways to counter our sitting habits and get up and moving. It turns out that’s easier said than done.
I started a new office job this week after a brief hiatus between office jobs. I forgot how much I have to sit in an office job.
That’s just the nature of 21st century office jobs; you come in, sit at your computer, maybe get up for a bathroom break, and then leave sitting in the car for your commute home. You probably spend lunch sitting down too (I know I do). When you’re home you probably spend a fair amount of time sitting in front of the TV, at the computer, or generally getting things done.
Of course, there have been studies done that counter the claim that “sitting is the new smoking.” It’s not clear that sitting is the major contributing cause of cancers, cancer, heart disease or diabetes as other studies claim.
I don’t know whether plopping my butt down for a Netflix binge is slowly killing me or if that’s just a hyperbolic claim. What I do know is after spending a couple of months out of an office and consciously practicing not sitting, I can feel a pronounced difference going back to an office and forcing myself to sit all day.
So how can counter the effects of sit-down job and avoid going back to a sit-down lifestyle? Here’s what I’m trying:
Taking frequent breaks
It’s pretty much impossible to not sit or be sedentary if you work at a computer. I get sucked into my work pretty easily and before I know it, an hour has gone by and my butt has melted into the chair, my brain and eyes hurt, and I’m so used to sitting down that I’m too lazy to go to the bathroom. Don’t be like me. I’ve read that getting up every 30-40 minutes and getting away from your computer actually increases productivity and, bonus, you’re getting your butt up and moving.
Don’t whip our your smartphone or computer the second you get home
Ugh, but this is so tempting. I get home, my bed looks so comfy I just have to sit on it. And hey, my smartphone is right there. I’ve missed out on all the memes of the past 4 hours. I’ll just look for 5 minutes… 2 hours and numerous SpongeBob memes later and I’m still sitting. Sometimes I think if I hid my phone or computer I’d be 10x less lazy after work.
If you can, walk
An old co-worker of mine walked to and from work everyday. She lived about 2 miles away whereas I lived around 15 miles away. But even if I lived where she did, I’d probably drive. I probably live a quarter mile from the grocery store and yet I still frequently drive. Short walks might not replace cardio or weight training but it does develop good habits.
Get a standing desk
I feel ambivalent about suggesting this because I used to have a standing desk and I hated it. Standing all day was pretty uncomfortable – I shifted from leg to leg, squirmed, took multiple walks around the office so I didn’t have to stand still any more. That being said, it kind of helped get me to move more. If you just can’t stand (pun alert!) the idea of standing all day, get a sit/stand desk and try standing 1-2 hours a during your work day.
Just be aware of your sitting
I’m so much more aware now than I used to be of how much I sit. Like this week I took a few days off of working out and, with a new office job, I’ve been sitting a lot more than I used to. I feel it, especially in my back. It’s not the end of the world, but I honestly can’t wait to get moving again and feel better.