If you’re like the majority of the people who spend half of their waking hours sat in an office chair, you’re likely to have felt the aching back pains or throbbing legs that are commonly associated with the office lifestyle.
They’re the unfortunate side effects of spending such a long time sitting, and most people simply believe that they “have to put up with it.”
Well, that’s not exactly true. Although certain consequences of spending such a lot of time sat down aren’t able to be fought against, the cramps, aches, sores, and pains most definitely can be.
So too can the weight gain that is common for many people who begin working in an office. Inaction means you don’t burn carbs and so we gain fat. That can change!
Here we’ll offer some practical and effective ways to fight against these common office workplace complaints. While going to the gym for two hours after work is a fine idea, it isn’t easy always to schedule in. Here are some healthy changes that you can make to your life without too big a change.
Buy a Pedometer or Download an App
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that we should do at least 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity” per week and the easiest way to fulfill those requirements is to take 10,000 steps per day. Over the week, you’ll hit the minimum target and be doing well in the fight against the sedentary office life.
A pedometer is a great bit of kit that will help you count your steps and keep you on the straight and narrow.
There are two options for you with a pedometer. You can either buy a standalone watch-style pedometer, which though excellent tends to be quite expensive, or download one of the many apps available for iPhone or Android cell phones. They’re frequently free!
These tools will allow you to keep a track of how much you walk every day, as well as set goals and remind you when you need to do more. Considering the fact that most people overestimate how much exercise they do on a daily and weekly basis, it’s really important to have a helping hand from a pedometer.
The health benefits of walking are long, so don’t waste this relatively easy option to counter the effects of sitting down at the office.
Take the Stairs
If you’re looking to add some easy steps onto your pedometer count, then taking the stairs to the first floor is a sure fire way to clock that number.
And to be honest, there is no reason for you not to take the stairs. It’s free, it’s fast, and it’s readily available in your workplace. To do so is simple; every time you need to go up or down the floors to and from your office, make the conscious decision – for the benefit of your health – to take the stairs.
Taking the lift is obviously better for the environment, but it also benefits you. Sitting for long periods tightens hip flexors, curves the spine, and weakens the gluteus muscles in your backside. But taking the stairs helps to give those muscles a workout, strengthening the glutes as well as firming up thigh muscles.
According to Stepjockey, a workplace well-being company based in the UK, a 45-year old woman can burn 76.5 calories a day, or 17,595 calories per year – the equivalent of 8.5 days of food – if she takes 3 journeys by stairs per day. See this link for their breakdown.
But benefits of taking the stairs don’t stop there. Studies have also shown that choosing to take the stairs over the lift saves times, so there are other benefits too.
Bike to Work
Cycling to work isn’t practical for everybody. There aren’t always viable routes, weather doesn’t permit cycling for long stretches of the year, or the commute is simply too far a distance.
That’s totally understandable, but depending on how you get to work, there could be ways to sneak some bike use into your journey to the office.
If you’re an inner-city resident or you use transport to get into the city, then bike-sharing schemes are a great way to jump onto the saddle. These schemes have enjoyed a boom in recent years and most major cities in the United States have one.
Biking offers incredible health benefits, including building muscles and quickly improving your cardiovascular functions. Obviously, using a bike burns calories but it also helps strengthen bones that will be beneficial for years to come. On top of that, also cycling releases endorphins which help to improve your mood and give your brain a kick start.
But if you can’t use a bike-sharing scheme, then we know many will be put off by the price of bikes and safety equipment. To counter this, check with your local governments, or even employers, to see if they have any bike-to-work schemes that will save you money.
You’ll also not need to pay for parking or tolls, trains or buses. Check out this handy calculator to see how much your daily savings would amount to.
Use a Stand-Up Desk or Desk Converter
A few years ago, standing desks were all the rage. HR departments around the world scrambled to understand the benefits and practicalities of this new craze.
The hype has since calmed somewhat, with suggestions that standing burns so many more calories than sitting down have been exaggerated. So while using a standing desk at work might not result in dropping pounds, the fact remains that sitting down for long periods – 5 hours 41 minutes for the average office worker - leads to higher likelihood of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Likewise, standing doesn’t tend to lead to the pain and weakness that office workers who sit down all day tend to complain of. But standing all day can lead to calf cramps and can be generally unenjoyable.
The ideal is, like so many things in life, stuck somewhere between the two. Neither sitting all day nor standing all day is healthy or wise, but doing some of both is better. That’s why a standing desk is great.
But they’re also expensive. Unless the boss is going to pay for it, a full standing desk is certainly a luxury that many can do without. They often start at $400 and can go up to $1500. The alternative, a desk converter, is far more invitingly priced.
Enjoy the standing sometimes for the added health benefits on offer, without feeling such a pinch in your pockets.