Sitting is the new smoking, but this isn’t news to most people today. To back that up, an extensive 45 year study has shown that sitting is second only to smoking as the highest death risk for this generation. Many people have flocked to standing desks to offset some of the risks of sitting all day at work. Unfortunately, more recent studies have shown that static standing behind desks can pose many additional health risks, resulting in more aggressive aging. So what is the answer? Are we fated to a premature lifespan due to our choice in career?
Not exactly. We’ve put together a few helpful tips and tools that we’ve put together to help you work behind a desk without sacrificing your health.
Sit, Stand, Repeat
Most people that purchase standing desks leave it in one position: either up or down. Leaving the standing desk in the down position defeats the purpose of owning a standing desk. But leaving it in the up position will create unnecessary stress and fatigue on your legs, joints, and circulatory system. Your body needs variety, not stagnation. Can you image a person in the entire history of humanity either sitting or standing in the same position for eight hours a day? What about doing that for five days a week? That’s crazy, but it’s exactly what we do to ourselves.
Use the pomodoro technique to create daily routines for your sitting and standing. The technique is simple: Create buckets of time that you will use to schedule your day. Most people use 30 minute intervals, but you can make it 45 minutes or 60 minutes if you’d like. All tasks should try to fit within those time buckets. If you finish early, reward yourself with a coffee break or chat it up at the water cooler. This is used to help maximize productivity. But it can also be used to remind yourself when to sit and when to stand.
We created a helpful Chrome extension, called CubeFit Reminders, to help people with the pomodoro technique. It will send you subtle notifications throughout the day to help remind you of when to stand, when to sit, and when to take a break from the computer. It’s designed as an office assistant to keep you focused, productive, and healthy.
Move While You Stand
Standing can be just as harmful as sitting if you are standing in the same position on all day. If you have already incorporated a good sit/stand routine for the day, add in a time to stretch in the middle of standing. Stretching helps increase the blood flow throughout your body, instantly negating any negative impacts of standing. You could also listen to music and try bouncing back and forth to the beat in order to slightly increase your heart rate. There are also topographic anti-fatigue mats that are designed to keep you fidgeting and moving while you stand. CubeFit created the TerraMat specifically to help people stretch, move around, and massage their feet while they work.
The important thing to remember is to keep active while you stand. Keep your shoulders back to hold proper posture and make sure that you change your standing position every few minutes. As mentioned earlier, standing in the same position for prolonged periods of time causes unnecessary stress and fatigue on your legs, joints, and circulatory system.
Take Frequent Breaks
Coffee breaks can actually help you increase your productivity. According to a Harvard study, microbreaks throughout the day improve your productivity by helping you transition and shift gears between tasks. They also come with the added benefit of increasing your lifespan by getting you away from your desk. You heart rate becomes slightly elevated. Blood circulation improves as you walk through the halls. Your eyes are given the opportunity to recover from the fatigue caused by the blue light in your computer screen. And your brain gets the much needed breather from work.
If coffee isn’t your thing, then take small breaks to chat it up with some colleagues. Not only do you get all of the benefits listed above, but you will be increasing that social currency that you naturally build over time by getting to know the people that you work with every day. Your coworkers are much more likely to do something for you if they view you as a friend than if they just view you as a colleague.
Fidget While You Sit
For the periods of the day where you will be sitting, try using an under the desk bike pedal. Riding a bike while you work not only fends off early aging, but it actually helps you get the 20-30 minutes of cardio that you should be aiming for every day. Set up a block of time (using the pomodoro technique) every day for checking emails and use this time to “bike” a mile or two, killing two birds with one stone. You don’t need to break a sweat. Adjust the resistance to a light level and pedal at a sluggish pace.
If an under the desk bike pedal is a little outside of your comfort zone, then try raising your feet off of the ground for 30 second intervals. Find time to do this 10 times every day while you sit. You’ll find that this not only raises your heart rate, but it helps build up your leg and ab muscles at the same time. Similar to the desk pedals, you could schedule this for a time where you are doing simple tasks so that you don’t impact your work performance.
Now that you are armed with a few tips and pointers, go forth and #getcubefit!