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Working to live may be inevitable, but does the process have to slowly kill you in the process? Is your office job actually stripping away your body’s ability to thrive? Nature never intended for us to spend eight hours in chairs in front of a computer, and staring at a glowing screen for hours on end can really take a toll on your eyes, shoulders and neck. Not only is sitting in a hunched position painful, it can lead to chronic conditions and takes a big hit out of your daily productivity. To avoid the working day stupor, it’s important to find little ways to be active throughout the day.

If you struggle for an excuse to stand up during the workday, this article is for you. By learning these tips for small ways to add some activity into your work day, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to keep yourself healthier, more focused and way more productive than you were before.

Sounds too good to be true? Try these tips for office activity out, and see for yourself!

Stresses of Sitting All Day

Nothing good happens to your body when it doesn’t get to move. A recent study found that people who sit for six hours or longer without occasionally getting up to stretch deal with psychological distress and are less capable of dealing with day-to-day operations than other coworkers. You may have plans to workout after the workday, but recent research is showing that it simply isn’t enough. You can’t offset ten hours of sitting with an hour long run; to prevent damage from happening to your body you need to be moving all day long.

Long term damage is easy to create for your body when you don’t move all day, especially in your back and neck.
businessman with lower back pain

Back Problems

When you work at a desk or on a computer, your neck and upper shoulders are held at a slightly forward, awkward position for hours on end. The problem becomes worse when you talk on a phone throughout the day. Your back is made up of disks that expand and contract when you move, which is how they absorb blood and nutrients. Sitting for too long causes these disks to compress together and lose flexibility in the long run.

All this tense sitting leads to strains on your cervical vertebrae and permanent imbalances, which leads to neck strain and a sore back and shoulders. Some experts estimate that 40% of chronic back pain in our world today is caused by sitting hunched in front of a computer for hours on end without break.

Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel is a nerve syndrome caused when there is an excessive amount of pressure on the median nerve in the hand and wrist in an area called the carpal tunnel. This nerve is responsible for the feeling you have in your hand, and overuse can cause numbness, tingling, weakness and even long term muscle damage in your hands and fingers. Though carpal tunnel is often caused by being born with a small carpal tunnel, it also quickly develops in people that perform the same motion over and over again or use vibrating hand tools. Typing on a keyboard for hours on end or scrolling through messages on a cell phone all create the kinds of repetitive movements likely to cause carpal tunnel. Using your equipment smarter (like a split keyboard or ergonomic mouse) can make a big difference for your wrists, especially when combined with frequent breaks throughout the day.

Benefits of Exercising, Even in Short Bursts

In most cases, the work you need to do at your desk is non-negotiable, at least if you want to keep your job. Knowing that sitting for hours is inevitable, is it really worth trying to squeeze in a short workout or two? The answer is a resounding yes. Study after study has shown the benefits of bursts of exercise throughout the day. Though the long term effects of sitting all day is a bigger health crisis for your body than decades of smoking, simply getting up and moving around is as good for you as throwing away the pack of cigarettes for good.

Not only will midday movement improve your mood, it will also increase your productivity, help you sleep better at night, and even cause you to take fewer sick days throughout the year. In fact, a little physical movement has been shown to be far more effective than an afternoon cup of coffee.

Ways To Get Up in the Middle of the Day

Knowing that exercise is healthy for you isn’t good enough; you actually need to DO it to see the benefits. For many people, finding a way to include fitness in their workday involves changing their entire workplace culture, and the effort can be overwhelming enough to cause them to give up.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Adding exercise to your daily life can be as simple as switching out a few routines. Below are some top tips for easily incorporating some fitness routines into your work routine. Most of these tips are subtle enough to quickly become long term habits, but their benefits are great enough to make them worth doing.

Schedule Short, Frequent Breaks

It’s easy to commit to getting up during the workday when you automate the process. Don’t get sucked into the endless cycle of answering emails for hours on end, and instead set timers to signify your break times. A popular work-break ratio is the Pomodoro method, which requires a five minute break after 25 minutes of productivity. Just a five minute break to get up and walk around the office will reset your brain and increase your productivity while you work. For tasks that require extra focus, you can double the time and work for fifty minutes before a ten minute break.

The best way to ensure you actually take your breaks is to use a browser extension to sound an alarm after every work-break cycle. Some, like Block and Focus even allow you to block specific websites during your workday to ensure Facebook and your email stays unchecked during the working periods.

Office Walking Meetings

Long office meetings can suck the life out of you, but you can increase everyone’s productivity by taking your meetings out of the boardroom and onto your feet. Walking meetings have been shown to increase creativity and lead to more honest conversations between coworkers. Best of all, they wake everyone up, create mandatory “technology free time” and get your heart rate moving.

See how walking meetings work for your team by having your next suitable one in a nearby park or simply while walking around the block. You might be amazed at the levels of engagement that you and your coworkers start to show.

Stand Up Desk

Looking for a way to force yourself to sit down less? Invest in a sit-stand desk and it will happen naturally. Create a desk height that puts the top of your computer monitor at eye level and you’ll immediately feel tension easing away from your neck and shoulders. Early research has shown that sit-stand work stations help workers replace a quarter of their sitting time with the position that comes most naturally for the human body.

Lunch Break Workouts

No matter how busy your workday gets, you most likely still have a lunch break every day. Though it’s always tempting to pass out in a glazed stupor, your time can be better spent fitting in a quick midday workout. Not only will you burn calories, you’ll also help yourself de-stress and get refreshed for the rest of the day. The best way to start a lunch break workout is to find a partner willing to work with you and keep you dependable. Go out for a twenty minute walk or join a nearby gym for a quick cycling class; in many cases your body will feel the benefits of your efforts for hours to come.

Work day too hectic to get a lunch break? There are dozens of simple ways to add some movement into your schedule. Choose the stairs over the elevator, walk over to your coworker to talk personally instead of sending an email, pace while talking on the phone and park your car in the far corner of the parking lot. Even small amounts of movement can really add up in the long run.

woman doing yoga on a mat in an office

Office Yoga

Your office might not be equipped with a gym, but there is one type of exercise that you can do with minimal equipment and space; yoga! If you can fit an exercise mat on the floor, you have no excuse for fitting in a quick session. Just fifteen minutes of yoga can loosen a stiff back, open up your lungs and get you stretched and refreshed. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the first thing about leading your own routine, as there are plenty of online instructional videos that will lead you through the process without a problem.

In Summary

Working in an office is no excuse for chronic pain. There are plenty of ways that you can add activity into your workday without compromising your productivity. In fact, taking the time to move your body every hour will make you a happier, more efficient employee and help you be at your most creative.

There’s no excuse for staying in a seat all day; find some ways to get your body moving today!

About Author

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Lydia Noyes is an Appalachian homesteader and writer that lives on a land trust deep in the mountains of West Virginia.