If you sit at a desk all day, you are probably aware that it’s bad for your body. But exercising before or after work cancels it out, surely? Unfortunately not.
A study by the American Heart Association found that no amount of physical exercise can counteract the adverse effects of sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day.
When you sit for long periods of time, your body activity slows, negatively affecting your heart and blood vessels. Good cholesterol drops by as much as 20 per cent and fat burning enzymes drop 90 per cent. Shockingly, scientists found that people with sitting jobs had twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that you end up feeling sleepy or spaced out after a spending a few hours motionless. Sitting still for a long time also effect brain activity and therefore productivity.
What can you do about it?
Frequent breaks from sitting can help counter the damaging effects of a sedentary lifestyle, as can ensuring your workspace is set up as ergonomically as possible. But the best solution for your health is to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting per day.
Stand up desk
Try using a stand up desk for part of your working day. It may sound exhausting, but the idea is not to stand all day long, it’s about interspersing your periods of sitting with standing. Ease yourself in gradually with short periods of standing time.
Standing desks are ideal as you can adjust the height easily between standing and sitting positions. If you're reluctant to fork out on a new desk, try raising your laptop on a shoebox while you stand to see how it feels.
If you have an office based job or spend more than an hour or more at a time sitting still, make a conscious effort to move around at regular intervals. Just stretching your legs, chatting to colleagues or walking about the office can make a huge difference.
Set a timer on your desktop to go off every hour, and try to do two minutes of activity. This could be making tea, tidying your desk, or just walking about.
Try taking all your phone calls while walking around, or walk up and down the stairs to get the blood flowing. Also make sure you take a lunch break and aim to walk or exercise for at least half an hour.
Optimise your workstation
During work hours, make sure that when you are seated, your desk, chair and screen are positioned at the right height for you. This will minimise back and neck pain. Your forearms should be level with the floor when typing. Raise or lower your chair to get the right height. Your knees should be at right angles, raise or lower your chair use a footrest or prop your desk on some books.
Make sure your screen is at eye level, as this will stop you hunching over your keyboard. If using a laptop, try using an external keyboard and propping your laptop on a stack of books at eye level. Small changes such as these will help you combat the negative effects of a sedentary office lifestyle.
To find the ideal position for your workspace, click here
The Varidesk review
Our Head of Content Rhalou tried out a Varidesk desktop converter with interesting results.
‘I’ve heard the rumours that a sedentary lifestyle was harmful, and I certainly struggle with a sore back and the mid-afternoon slump during my working day! But as a multimedia editor, I spend my days glued to a screen and I couldn’t see a way around it. I assumed that cycling to work and squeezing in a lunchtime run would be enough to counteract my sedentary day. But then I got my hands (or should I say feet!) on a Varidesk and everything changed.
‘The assumption with stand up desks is that you do just that, stand up all day. But they’re actually designed so you can stand up and sit down as much as you like, and for me this was a game changer. Throughout the day I am up and down like a yoyo, and it suits my working day. If I have something tricky to do, I sit down and concentrate. But for emails, social media, or chatting to my team, I am happiest on my feet. I’ve even found that being more mobile makes me feel more alert, energised and dynamic.
'But perhaps most importantly of all, standing more during the day has had a huge impact on my running fitness. It’s only a subtle one, but I have definitely benefited from time on my feet and this has in turn led to increased endurance. I don’t get tired as quickly during long runs, because I have stronger more powerful legs. Now I am a standing desk convert, I don't plan on returning to my sedentary lifestyle again!'
Fore more information or to try one out for yourself, visit Varidesk.com