Maybe you thought it was a case of the Mondays, that bad gas station coffee, or a schedule chock-full of meetings that’s casting a gloom over your work week, but you’re wrong. The real culprit is an unsuspecting enemy. It’s so close to home, you might even call it a friend. It props you up when you’re tired and you lean on it for support.
It’s your office chair.
Cue Disney villian music. But really, here’s why.
Our bodies are made to move. Home to 360 joints and 700 skeletal muscles, we are bursting at the seams with potential energy. Our bodies operate like emergency personnel on standby, ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice. But when we sit for prolonged periods of time, it encourages shallow breathing and less oxygen absorbtion into our bloodstream. Less oxygen, of course, is bad news for our brains and can trigger symptoms of fatigue.
A sedentary lifestyle is number four on the list of global risk factors for mortality, according to the World Health Organization. That means your chair doesn’t have your back, or your overall health in mind. Those who alternate between standing and sitting at their workstations are said to experience higher levels of energy and productivity during work, according to a study conducted by Dr. Josephine Chau at the University of Sydney, Australia.
The study surveyed 30 staff members at a telecommunications company over a five month period. According to Dr. Chau, sixty to ninety minutes of standing per day is enough to receive a life-giving energy boost from staying vertical. Not to mention the battle against slow weight gain.
For most of us, weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, but as a slow two or three pound creep each year. Burning excess calories in our downtime does wonders to help us stay in the fight for our health.
Some employers are making strides by offering standup desks as an employee health perk, and Bandwidth is one leading the charge. On any given day you might walk through our office and look out over the cubicle dividers to a sea of floating heads, laughing, talking and typing away.
Come lunch hour, the floating heads make their way down to the gym where they take part in a 90 minute fitness lunch, a unique benefit provided by Bandwidth to sweat it out midday and return to work revitalized. This benefit applies across the board, from the CEO to the seasonal intern. Most new hires who come on board have one commonly asked question: Is this for real? Once they witness the mass exodus to the gym everyday at lunch hour, they tend to catch on quickly.
If working out on your lunch break isn’t your thing, here are a few more options to make work hours count for your health.
1. Treadmill desks.
While this one is not for everyone, the calorie burn is admittedly enticing. You can burn a surplus of up to 600-800 calories a day at a rate of one to two miles per hour. Sound amazing? We think so. Still, it’s not for the motion sick or vertigo-prone. Stepping off the treadmill desk after a few hours has been described as leaving a cruise ship for dry land. Everything around you still feels like it’s moving and it can be a bit dizzying.
While sweating and hydration may not be welcomed sources of distraction from a treadmill desk, there are ways to work around it. The health benefits certainly prove it’s worth the effort, as most adherents report to burning an average of 100 calories per hour at a walking pace, which in a 8 hour work day, you can do the math!
If you’re the adventurous walking while working type, here are just a few of the companies that make treadmill desks: Ergotron, TreadDesk, Herman Miller, LifeSpan and The Human Solution. Even FitBit reportedly has a “Walking at Work” online community forum for those who do life at two miles per hour.
2. Correct your posture while at the computer.
If the idea of a moving desk doesn’t make you swoon, at the very least, it’s worth taking a second look at your posture while you sit. Computer desks are notorious for keeping massage therapists in business due to the shoulder, neck and back strain they cause.
For optimum chair-sitting posture, here’s a refresher on how you should sit while at work.
Good posture starts from the ground up. Your feet should be resting flat in front of you on the ground. The hips should be as far back in the chair as you can get them to avoid any undue pressure on the spine caused by slumping over or tilting too far back in the chair.
Your spine should be upright from the hips, shoulders back and body should be centered in front of the monitor and keyboard. If you feel the need to shrug your shoulders while your hands are at the keyboard, the desk is too high to your torso. Adjust your chair or desk to fix this until arms are level and not above the elbows.
While sitting in the chair, the abdominal muscles should be engaged and shoulders back. When core muscles aren’t engaged, our bodies hunch forward and our necks tilt downward which hurts the spine. Wrists should be level and resting easily in front of you.
While looking straight ahead at your monitor, you should be able to reach out and touch your screen with your fingertips. An arm’s length is the correct distance your monitor should be from your body. Too much of a downward or upward tilt on the neck to see the monitor strains the cervical spine.
If the standup desk is not for you, be sure to take breaks every 30 minutes to move around, even if it’s just to the bathroom and back. This will wake up your legs, get your blood flowing and tell your body it’s not time to rest.
3. Step on up, or just swivel.
Looking for a way to add dynamic movement to your stand up workstation? Why not try a balance board? If standup desks were ever criticized for being one-dimensional, the balance board is its muse, increasing range of motion in the legs and boosting the overall fun factor from zero to ten.
A company called Fluidstance has created The Level to make standup desks more dynamic. The product claims to increase your heart rate by as much as 15 percent by keeping the body alert through constant movement and circulation. The wooden surface of the board is mirrored by a sculpted metal framework underneath that facilitates movement. Standing on The Level is similar to snowboarding, with feet parallel on the board, shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. The board creates natural swivel movements when weight is shifted from one foot to another. It’s the closest thing to floating in the office without an actual hoverboard!
Whether strolling, swiveling, or just plain standing, there’s a myriad of ways shake off slow weight gain like Taylor Swift backup dancer. Try out one of these innovative new ways to stay moving next time you’re at the desk, and share with us which one is your favorite!
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Something to think about: Someone who is busier than you is working out right now!
Improve posture and use a standing desk!