Date posted: 27/09/2017 4 min read

Are you staying fit and focused at work?

They say that sitting is the new smoking, so how do we maintain health in our increasingly sedentary jobs?

In Brief

  • Deskercise stretches, standing up to send email and walking meetings can help.
  • Taking a break each half hour can halt the effects of sedentary jobs on our entire metabolic system.
  • We sit for 7.7 hours a day and increasing strenuous physical activity can’t reverse these ill-effects.

By Bronwyn Xavier

Twenty-four hour gyms, lunchtime runs and corporate footy teams all help us fit exercise into our daily lives. Yet the modern western world is still overwhelmingly a sedentary one, due to the way we spend our hours while at work, the way we get to work and the way we spend our leisure time.

A sedentary lifestyle can be blamed for a range of health ailments, from cardiovascular disease, osteoperosis, diabetes and premature death. Even increasing strenuous physical activity cannot reverse the ill-effects that sitting still for long periods of time can have on your body.

Global studies show that, on average, we are sitting still for 7.7 hours per day. While the remedies appear obvious, incorporating standing and movement into sedentary activities can be difficult. 

Medical professionals say that a break from sitting every half an hour is all that’s needed to halt the effects of being sedentary on our entire metabolic system. We are designed to stand and move, and our bodies work better when we do. 

If we are to spend 30 plus years in the workplace, we need to establish good habits. 

Here’s what you can do to remain fit and focused at work:

1. Deskercise

There are many exercises you can use your desk, like push-ups and tricep dips, but for the average worker, pulling your chair back, swiping the work off your desk and hulking out a set of push-ups can be quite distracting. 

Remember, it’s not calories you need to burn, but a reminder you need to send to your body to remain alert and active. Get into the habit of engaging different parts of your body without interrupting the flow of your work.

Imagine there is a pencil between your shoulder blades. Squeeze to grip the pencil and relax to release. Expand your chest by reaching out your arms to the side and turn your thumbs to the floor.

Hover your feet slightly above the floor. Stretch your legs in and out to engage your abs. 

Link the exercises to specific tasks until they become habit.  Every time you hit send on an email, do a shoulder blade squeeze. Every time you attach a document, do your abs. 

2. Stand and Deliver

If you’re emailing someone in the same building, try to walk and talk to them in person instead. Stand to read emails and sit to down to reply. 

When the phone rings, stand up and talk. This not only gives your metabolism a jolt by standing, but also increases vocal chord function, making you sound more confident. 

Encourage walking or, at the very least, standing meetings.

Spend as much as you like on an ergonomic chair that encourages good posture, but the fact remains that prolonged periods of sitting is bad news for your health.

Many workplaces have standing workspaces already. If your office isn’t one of them, consider implementing these, even if it’s just for meetings or lunches.

Utilise fitness apps and set reminders to encourage active habits. Create awareness within your workplace so that you’re not alone in combating the ill-effects of a sedentary workplace.

Related: The harmful effects of stress

Find out how to identify – and avoid – the harmful effects of stress.