Since the 1950s, our workforce has increasingly moved from physically active jobs to sedentary jobs. Many of us work in places where we’re sitting in front of a computer or desk for 8 hours a day, which can have significant health drawbacks if we don’t address them. A moving body is a healthy body, we should be mindful of how much each day we’re prioritizing that movement.
The downsides of sitting down
Studies suggest that sitting for more than 8 hours a day with no physical activity comes with similar risks of dying as obesity and smoking. Since many jobs are office jobs, these workers are often spending ~15 hours a day sitting—nearly twice the recommended healthy amount. Here’s some things that excessive periods of inactivity can lead to:
Offsets the health benefits of exercise.
Increases risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
Sedentary lifestyles are linked to muscle, tendon, ligament, neck, and back problems.
Poor posture, compression of spinal disks, and increased risk of herniated disks.
Long periods of sitting can lead to various issues in the glutes, legs, and even bones, including conditions like deep vein thrombosis and osteoporosis.
It can sound scary, but maintaining some sort of movement once an hour can help offset the effects of sitting and keep your body in motion.
How to keep active in the workplace
Keeping active in the workplace is not as hard as it seems, and just takes a bit of conscious thought to implement. Here’s a few ways that you can prioritize your health while sitting for long periods of time:
Every 10 minutes or so, do a posture check. Are you sitting up straight? Relax your muscles and joints so you can straighten out. A chair with lumbar support or a chair cushion with tailbone support can help you maintain this good posture.
Every 60 minutes, take a stretch break. Stand up and touch your toes, or bend your knees into a few squats. This keeps your muscles moving and alleviates the tension you accumulate while sitting.
Take short walking breaks. If you’re able, spend 3-4 minutes just walking a bit—either around the office, or to the bathroom/water station. It keeps the blood flowing and decompresses your spine and muscles.
Work standing up. If you have a standing desk, or can find somewhere to prop your computer, working while standing keeps your body flowing but also doesn’t put strain on your hips and joints from sitting all day.
Walk over to a coworker to talk instead of emailing. This might be 30 seconds of walking, but it makes a difference. If you’re able, opt for an in-person conversation over an email thread, to get some steps in and save you both time communicating.
Even doing just one of these tips can make a difference and turn your body from sedentary into active. When you’re consistently spending 8+ hours in a chair, those effects can add up over time. Prioritize your body today and make a difference for your health!
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Sydney Bracht (she/her) is the Chief Research Officer at SoundMind. Sydney’s Alma Mater is Johns Hopkins University, where she studied Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Spanish. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in numerous labs investigating the biological mechanisms that drive cancer metastasis and worked at Pfizer. In addition to laboratory research, Sydney is a volunteer for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and works on all clinical testing and mental health research for our product. She is the scientific voice of all things SoundMind. Outside of mental health, three things she would love to see more appreciated in this world are scientific literacy, clean energy, and black tea.
Brenna Elmore (she/her) is the Head of Marketing at SoundMind. She has a background in social media, having previously worked at Twitter as a manager on the @TwitterSupport handle. Her passions include mental health, social justice, and the art of storytelling through all its various mediums. She’s a proud alum of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied photography, videography, and creative writing. Aside from mental health, Brenna would love to see more appreciation for writing in notebooks, hanging out in bookstores, and taking cat naps (with cats included).
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