A few years back, Bloomberg Magazine online posted an article called "Your Office Chair Is Killing You". The fact that an inanimate office product is slowly ruining my life might be the most depressing thing ever. This article makes one claim that within a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%. Here are some more scary, potential symptoms of sitting for extended hours:
- General weight gain, caused by the lack of movement AND the desire to snack at your desk
- Contributes to risk of metabolic syndrome, heart attack, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes
- Pressure on the spine: after just 20 minutes hunched over in a chair, blood pools in the legs and immense pressure builds on the spine
- Varicose veins: this article explains that the lack of movement in our feet and legs prevents muscles from giving sufficient pressure to our blood vessels that could help facilitate better blood flow. This causes blood vessels in our feet and legs to expand as blood accumulates.
Another scary study shows that people who sat "11 hours or more per day" were "40%" more likely to die in the next three years than those who "sat fewer than four hours" per day. Yikes.
Also, don't forget these other negative effects of working in an office:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: we have heard this one for years, but using a mouse or typing on a keyboard all day are both potential causes of CTS, as explained by this article
- Depression: sitting at a desk all day and then going home and watching TV is an example of an extreme sedentary lifestyle, and basically you are shutting down the release of those important "happy" hormones, such as serotonin. God forbid you have an office without windows, because the lack of exposure to natural sunlight can be another contributor to depression.
- Dry eyes: many things might contribute to your dry eyes, but two common ones are air conditioning and staring at a computer. Both can contribute to dry eye syndrome, a real problem that could lead to eye infections, corneal scarring, and a whole mess of other problems. No thank you.
Now that I have sufficiently beaten your spirit, here are some ways to counter the effects:
Most of us do not get enough water in the day. We supplement our diets with coffee and alcohol, which only propagates the negative effects of dehydration.
One of the most obvious effects of a sedentary lifestyle is weight gain. Water is probably the best thing you can put in your body, which also happens to help you lose weight. It also promotes healthy, younger looking skin, makes your hair shinier, fuels your muscles for better workout once you leave the office, assists with digestion and immune system, etc. I have 5 reoccurring reminders in my calendar to "Drink Water." I even color-coded them blue. :P
When it comes to your job, water can directly benefit your success. This study claims that people who drink a pint of water before performing mental tasks had reaction times 14% faster than people who did not.
Take a few minutes every day to do some simple yoga stretches in your office or at your desk. There are many great articles and websites out there with ideas on how to incorporate yoga into your work schedule, here are two:
Additional office-friendly exercises
Everything you need to know about meditating in the office is summed up right here in this article. The most important takeaways being that you only need to commit to a few minutes a day and that the positive results are cumulative: the more often you do it the better!
This article recommends "Smiling Meditation" and "Walking Meditation", which coincides beautifully with #5 on my list!
I personally find that the best meditation technique for me is breathing exercises. I haven't tried all the ones suggested in these articles (but I will). I think breathing is easiest for me because that is always a strong focus during my out-of-office/studio yoga practice. As Sharon Salzberg says, "If you can breathe you can meditate!"
An article at the Huffington Post illustrates the best way to sit in a chair. I am definitely bad about slouching over my keyboard. I sit cross-legged in my chair too. It just feels SO comfortable to sit that way, I can't help it. I just have to keep in mind that the negative long term effects are slowly creeping up on me.
This article provides tips on how to minimize back pain that go beyond just good posture.
The diagram on the right is really helpful in showing the effects of each angle of slouching.
Eat lunch outdoors. Do whatever you can to change your scenery. A static environment is going to hinder creativity and thinking. Anyone can spare 5 minutes.
I have no article references for this one. Just trust me on it. If my office was next to a field I would definitely be lying in it right now.
One of the trends out there now is to set up your office so that you walk on a treadmill in front of your desk/computer.
I'm not convinced this would really help in the long run. There are lot of theories out there that claim standing all day is just as bad as sitting all day.
Alternatively, it would be great if all offices had a small workout area. Some buildings have this already. I think every office should invest in one. There have to be studies out there that link in-office gyms with lower healthcare costs for employers.
And last, but definitely not least as this is my personal favorite: take 5 minutes out of your day to look at cute baby animals.
This is practically as important as drinking water. Looking at cute animals, specifically babies, will actually increase overall productivity. It's a no-brainer.
GET YOUR DAILY CUTE RIGHT HERE: http://cuteoverload.com/
I know I have been really good about following this rule for many years. It's probably why I'm so good at my job.