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10 things you can do to reduce the damage from sitting down all day

The combination of more movement and environmental change is the key to lasting change, writes Sarah Cremen.

Image: Shutterstock/racorn

ON AVERAGE, PEOPLE spend 9.3 hours per day sitting and this inevitably takes its toll on your overall health, strength and mobility.

The incessant sitting doesn’t just end with work hours; there’s the sitting on the commute, sitting at lunch, sitting down to dinner and sitting on the couch to unwind before bed.

Working at a desk generally means more time indoors, less time moving and too many hours sitting hunched over a keyboard and even though a sedentary lifestyle is defined by a lack of physical activity, it is regular movement that actually trumps regular exercise.

Partaking in some form of exercise a few times a week in an attempt to counter-balance your otherwise sedentary lifestyle is great, but unfortunately a bit of foam rolling and resistance training will do little to negate the soft tissue stiffness, joint capsule tightness and general range of movement restrictions associated with desk jobs.

The combination of more movement and environmental change is the key to lasting change.

Last week’s article covered how to optimally set up your workstation (if you missed it, you can catch up here and below are 10 simple steps you can take towards improving the overall quality of your work environment.

1. Learn how to sit properly

Use this workspace planner to determine the optimal set up for you: http://www.ergotron.com/tabid/305/language/en-US/default.aspx

2. Get a height adjustable desk

If possible, or if work won’t pay for one consider fashioning your own. Ease yourself into standing desk life by alternating between sitting (properly) and standing throughout the day.

3. Constantly vary your position throughout the day

Be it in sitting or standing, the problem is not necessarily one particular position, but maintaining a static position full stop. Shift your weight around, change your stance, and stretch your legs.

4. Use the Pomodoro technique

Work, then move, work, then move. Improve your focus and your productivity by working to a 25 minutes on, five minutes off format. Every 25 minutes, stand up, stretch, walk around, breathe deeply for five minutes and then get back to the task at hand. Use your watch, phone, or an app if necessary. https://pomodoneapp.com/

5. Make the most of your breaks

No need to overthink this one, just use the time to re-energise yourself and move your body. Again, stand up, stretch, walk around and breathe deeply.

6. Get your co-workers involved

If you feel awkward stretching alone in a corner of the office, encourage others to do the same. Set up a lunchtime yoga class, set some office challenges or just head out for a walk together at lunch.

7. Give your eyes a break

Make sure to peel your eyes away from the screen throughout the day. Squinting at a monitor for hours on end will not only wreak havoc on the muscles in your neck and shoulders, it’s also bad news for your eyes.

8. Take your work outside

Irish weather permitting of course.

9. Suggest walking meetings and calls

Stimulate the mind and body by taking the opportunity to walk and talk. Get outdoors and increase your alertness and creativity.

10. It’s not just physical…

Stress is a massive contributor to poor health; headaches, muscles tension, fatigue etc. Take time each day to prioritise your mental health. Breathing techniques, walking meditations and body scans can all be implemented on a daily basis. If you’re a novice, try downloading https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app for a guided daily meditation.

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