How to win the battle against your chair

I am delighted to have Jodie Arnot from Healthy Balance Fitness contribute a guest article. Jodie has an excellent weekly newsletter that I highly recommend to anyone interested in their health and exercise and much more as well There are always yummy recipes and other articles covering multiple different facets of our lives.

The infographic was supplied by the Daily Infographic and can be viewed completely here. 

 Two years ago, for the first time in my working life, my job became a sitting based role.  

For the first 13 years as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, my day was spent walking, standing, lifting, bending, jogging, exercising, setting up equipment and holding boxing pads.  My pedometer would regularly show over 20,000 steps per day - twice the recommended activity for good health.  Needless to say I slept well at night!

As Healthy Balance Fitness expanded and our team has grown, my role has morphed into desk based customer service, administration, marketing and team management involving a lot of emails, phone calls and writing. I now spend around 8 hours per day at my computer.  Turns out it's no coincidence that two years ago I began having terrible issues with my hip and back.

Sitting is the new contact sport.  It leaves us injured and uncomfortable.  Most of our clients who have a sitting role complain of general back and neck aches and pains.  Even with a perfect workstation set up and attention to good posture, you can still suffer from 'sitters back'.  

When we're sitting the pressure on our discs increases by 40-175% compared with standing. Commonly our shoulders are rounded which leads to shortened, tight chest muscles and weakened, lengthened upper back muscles. Our hip flexors and hamstrings are in a shortened position - even when we're sitting correctly!  8 hours of these compromises and there's going to be an affect on our bodies away from our desk.

bad_posture_computer_chair.jpg

I recently took four weeks overseas leave and spent no time at all at a computer.  Even the time I spent sitting was very limited.  We walked all day, covering many kilometres while sightseeing, sitting only to eat and for very brief rests.  Not surprisingly my back and hip pain disappeared.  I felt fantastic.  After a week back at my desk, my old nemesis returned.  

Even though I do a workout five times per week, these exercise sessions cannot compensate for all the inactivity that comes with daily desk sitting.  

I've committed to changing the way I work so I can avoid back pain, and make my day healthier.

My tips for making a sitting job healthier:

Regular breaks: Commit to getting up for movement breaks every hour.  Never spend longer than one hour sitting.  Use an alarm on your phone or PC if you have to.

Workstation health check:  Is your set up sending you to the physio?  Get some professional advice to change your chair, screen and keyboard to optimum levels

Lunchtimes:  Use your lunch break to move.  While you're actually eating it's best to sit down, however you don't eat for your entire lunch break so use the remainder of the time to walk.  This doesn't have to mean a power walk in workout clothes, just zipping down to the post office, down to the park to eat your lunch, or around the block will be great for your body and your mental energy too.  

Workout breaks:  If you can, try doing your exercise in the middle of the day to break up the sitting.  I love jogging mid afternoon when the energy slump would normally hit.  I have friends who get to the gym or jog the Tan track at lunch and arrive back at the office ready to kick some goals.

Motivation tools:  One of the best ways to become more conscious of your activity levels is to measure your daily steps with a traditional pedometer or one of the new fitness bands like Fit Bit, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuel.  For most people the cold hard fact of how few steps they take each day is a rude awakening.  Once you're conscious of your average steps it's easy to set a goal and motivate yourself to move more.

Active meetings:  How often do you meet with a colleague or client just sitting and talking?  Could this be done walking around in the fresh air?  Productivity and morale would be higher if everyone was to enjoy some outdoor meetings each week.

Stretch breaks:  At least once per day (ideally more) get up and stretch.  You don't need to do an entire yoga session, just a few 30 second stretches spread throughout the day will make a big difference to how your body feels.

Commuting:  How do you get to work?  Sitting in a car or on a train?  Cut down your daily sitting quota by walking to work (or part of the way), or by riding.  Even if you do this once or twice per week your sitting hours over the whole year are dramatically reduced.

Find standing and moving tasks:  Go through all your regular tasks and work out which ones you can do out of your chair.  I stand up any time I'm not typing or using my mouse.

For example:

Standing

Phone calls

Opening mail

Reading - either mail, literature or large amounts of text on screen

Walking

Phone calls

Meetings

Strategy, planning, ideas (make quick notes on your phone or use a dictation app!)

Exercise bike

Research, quick emails & reading  - I save all my research for the ipad.  I read fitness blogs and articles and save useful ones for our newsletter while pedalling and sweating away!  I don't recommend being distracted with tasks during all your exercise sessions, however it's a much healthier way to work once or twice per week.

For me, it's movement as medicine.