So you finally graduated from waiting tables to a sexy office job and thought “This is great! I get to sit and do my work all day!” Well, you shouldn’t feel that way. Because sitting is death.
That’s not some kind of 10-minute workout buddy infomercial pitch, either. Real scientists and health guys say it all the time. Sitting kills. Unfortunately for you, whether you just started in the cubicle farm or you’ve been there for 20 years, your job is one of the prime killers in this country.
But just because you’re chained to your desk all day doesn’t mean you can’t do a few things to take care of yourself and keep a bulwark against the looming specter of seat-death. Here are five ways you can counteract that bad posture, those sore muscles, and those strained eyes without leaving your little 6’ by 6’.
No. 1 – Stretching For Slouchers
No one is going to tell you “stop slouching!” here, because that’s condescending and, frankly, not helpful. If you normally hang over your computer like a vulture, it’s likely that your back starts aching after a little while. You probably stand for a second or try to crack your back to relieve the pain, but it’s not long before the ache comes creeping back is it?
Nice guy Steve McMinn put together a couple of exercises and stretches that actually work to prevent stress-related muscle injury, improve posture, and glad-hand oodles of extra energy you can put to use at work and at home. For most of these simple stretches, you don’t even need to get up.
No. 2 – Lose The Chair (And The Desk)
Most offices aren’t as droll and uniform as the one in 1999’s Office Space. Bosses and office managers understand the importance of a healthy, comfortable workforce and will allow plenty of work-arounds to the standard chair/desk system so long as it doesn’t distract your co-workers (and as long as they don’t have to pay for it).
Consider dumping your crappy chair and picking up a stability ball. Sitting on it is plenty comfy, but it’ll require you to maintain good posture, and will even assist with balance and stability (and you won’t even feel it).
Another thing you can do is stand. A standing desk spares you from pain and also requires good posture. You might be skeptical, but everyone who has ever tried it swears by it. If you’re still not sure, just try it one or two days out of the week and see if you warm up to it.
Of course, there’s the cost aspect to this piece of advice. Luckily, you can get a perfectly acceptable stability ball for $30, way cheaper than a supposedly “ergonomic” $500 chair. With just $20, you can build an adjustable standing desk to go on top of your work desk in just half an hour.
No. 3 – Don’t Let Anyone Catch You Doing This, But …
There are tons of office lifehack articles on the Internet that list dozens of exercises you can do in your little cubicle, and many of them while you sit and work. But if turning your little cell into a plyometric gym doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, we have amazing news. You don’t need to do all those exercises to offset the negative health effects of sitting.
You only need one.
Max Shank has this ridiculously simple move he calls the “Thoracic Bridge.” Sounds scary and maybe a little too yoga, we know, but most of you reading this can do it.
Do that a couple of times instead of just standing and stretching whenever you need a break. It’ll open up your body and help with pain and tightness in your shoulders, back and hips. Just don’t let anyone catch you doing it, it looks ridiculous.
No. 4 – Take An Extra Couple Steps
Sometimes your options for a little extra movement are so apparent they fail to occur. Even with an office job, there are tons of opportunities to get up and move around. Some suggest standing every time you get a phone call (and pacing if you’re cellular). Walking to and from lunch is another popular suggestion, though that one is at the mercy of your location and your time constraints.
A simple, so-obvious-we-can’t-even-believe-we-have-to-say-it slice of advice is just “do stuff in person.” Need to send an email? Why not walk over to your colleague’s office and do it face-to-face instead? Have a one-on-one meeting? Suggest a walk-and-talk for the chat.
According to Mayo Clinic obesity researcher Dr. James Levine, “Within two weeks, you could get addicted to walking and working.”
No. 5 – Just Observe Basic Good Posture (Here’s How)
If all of that sounds like a little too much for you, don’t worry. We’ve saved the best news for last. No matter how many balance balls you buy or how many exercises you do in your little cubicle, none of it makes any difference if you don’t understand good posture.
Honestly, just sitting up straight will help you eliminate aches and pains and reduce your chances of dying in that chair. The video below explains the basics of good posture. Commit it to memory and you’re already better off than your slouching colleagues.