Why You Should Stand In Your Office And Save Your Back

Ikea's Standing Desk

Ikea's Standing Desk

In the car, on the sofa, in restaurants. I have been thinking about this a lot. And then I interviewed chiropractor Dr Cullen, who is very clear about the need for avoiding sitting at work or anywhere else.

β€˜Life is motion;, he says. his advice β€˜Don’t sit down if you don’t have to’. He recommends standing, moving, if possible avoiding sitting in order to keep the spine aligned. Leaning forward when we sit plays havoc with our posture; it knots our muscles, damages the discs in our lower back and puts too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The best way to avoid sitting at work, according to him is to invest in a standing workstation and a ball chair which keeps our bodies moving while we’re sitting at work.

For myself, I realized when I was not sleeping, I was spending, maybe six or seven hours each day, sitting on my butt. I figured there are only 24 hours in a day, so that’s a big chunk of it. Shocking! Is it like that for you? Your mind active, your body virtually at a standstill. Think about it, our entertainment, meals, laundry, shopping can all be dealt with by the mere click of a button.

It wasn’t always like this. Back in the early days of hunters and gatherers, right up to the time of our great great grandparents, most people did not have to even think about how to avoid sitting at work because survival involved activity - sowing, ploughing, harvesting, fetching water and firewood.. Our ancestors were a whole lot fitter and healthier for this stretching, lifting, carrying, digging and bending. All this sitting, on the way to work, at work and after work is a very western phenomenon. I call it the devolution of the modern man.! In the developing world, life is still a physical thing, sitting down, a luxury at the end of a strenuous day.

So, not only was I, a 21st century woman, getting unfit but I also heard from a reliable source that all this sitting can actually reduce my life expectancy by as much as two years! No wonder doctors call this sedentary lifestyle the β€˜sitting disease’! Yes really.

Still don’t believe the chair is quite literally killing us? And I’m not even talking about the electric chair here – no, this is all about the one in our office and living room. Sorry to be an alarmist but research has demonstrated prolonged periods of sitting contribute significantly to a list as long as my arm, of serious medical conditions: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, chronic neck and back pain, to name but a few. So we’re not talking here about a niggling cough or a mild tummy bug. No these are serious life-disrupting or threatening illnesses, always tough, sometimes impossible to cure. 

So, let’s assume now that, you agree, albeit reluctantly, that avoiding sitting at work is a good idea. Remember, Dr Collen’s suggestion about purchasing a ball-chair, kneel-chair or a standing workstation? Number one priority.

But how else can you avoid sitting at work and its damaging effects?

β€˜I haven’t got time to go to the gym β€˜, I hear you saying.

It’s ok, calm down, I’m not even going there. I’m not asking you to swim a mile or run a marathon, or even go to a zumba class. What I am going to do, however, is share with you ways I avoid sitting down so much during work. Yes during, not before, not after a long day. With a little imagination and forward planning, it can be done and the rewards are immense. Honestly!

The no brainers...

Let’s start with the easy stuff, the stuff which isn’t going to cost a cent and will hardly take up any time at all. Remember, you’re going to live longer anyway, so a little time spent on avoiding sitting at work is time well spent, I’d say. Hope you agree. Who says you need to sit down when you’re on the phone? I walk around my office when I make those calls. I take the long route to the washroom, to the kitchen for a glass of water or wherever I need to go. If possible I go and ask a question instead of emailing.

Obviously, elevators and escalators are strictly β€˜no go’ areas. I run up the stairs, one, two, three steps at a time. It’s greener too – I’m using my energy not the world’s. I don’t walk to the nearest grocery store to buy lunch, I go to the next one, or even the one after that. Lunch break is a great time to explore the local area – park/shops/library etc. Find a lunch buddy to go with. You could even make new friends while you’re on the move. Every 30 minutes, I get up from my computer, stretch and walk round the office twice.

The next level... That’s a good start but now we’re talking about bigger changes.

Any way I can avoid sitting on the way to work? Instead of driving, can I walk/cycle/rollerblade/scoot? If you work far from home, can you mix and match – walk/cycle/rollerblade/scoot part of the way and continue by car? Given that everyone who works in an office needs to avoid sitting so much, how about suggesting to your boss that you have β€˜walking meetings’? Or, if that’s not practical, you break every 30 minutes to stretch your legs and walk? 

So there’s a few ways I avoid sitting at work. But what about before and after? There are loads of fun active alternatives to slumping on the sofa in the evening and being a TV watching couch potato! Avoiding sitting at work or home not only extends life and reduces the risk of serious disease but improves our mental state and productivity. I know for myself moving around boosts my creativity, helps me focus and reach goals and enhances my memory.

A win-win situation. Don’t sit, get moving!

Motion is life.