Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 Mar

16 Tips for Desk Jockeys: What to Do About Sitting All Day

helpEven if your workdays consist of alternating between hunkering down over the laptop in a full Grok squat with perfectly neutral lumbar spine and standing up at a standing workstation for the entire work day you’re likely still engaging in some anatomically novel and potentially problematic habits. The bulk of you folks might get away with wearing minimalist shoes to work or maybe padding around the office in socks, but I imagine most people are sitting down, staring at a screen, and making strange tapping motions with their fingers splayed out in front of them for seven to eight hours a day. If this sounds a little too familiar you could probably use some help. I know I could.

There’s nothing wrong with this picture, of course. I mean, that’s life. That’s reality, and we can’t always change it. We have to work with it, and if we play our cards right we can certainly work around it. Play around on the margins and see where we can bend the rules. Isn’t that what we’re doing anyway? Trying to make things work in a totally bizarre environment with all sorts of terrible choices at our fingertips? And I think we do okay. In fact, it’s in the margins that the really big stuff happens. You make little changes that only you notice and they make a huge difference. Life only becomes pathological if you do nothing to address the problems that arise.

Let’s go over the big (little) problems with office life and come up with some possible solutions or workarounds.

All That Sitting

You know about the issues with sitting. For one, constantly sitting in a chair with a back is quite new to our physiologies. We used to walk a lot more, stand a lot more, squat a lot more, whereas chairs were a luxury item until a couple hundred years ago. What does this mean? Sitting places our hip flexors in a shortened, tightened, active position. Shortened muscles that stay shortened for hours at a time get stiff and overactive. Ever feel that pain in the crease between your hip and your inner thighs after sitting for a while? Yeah, exactly. At the same time, your hip extensors are being lengthened and weakened. Your glutes and hamstrings are all stretched out, and I bet your glutes are somewhat inactive. This is no good. The hip region is the prime mover from whence all power and locomotion originates, and if all the crucial supporting actors (glutes, hammies, hip flexors, to name a few) flub their roles because they were under (or over) prepared, the entire operation will crumble.

First, try avoiding the problem. Don’t just sit like everyone else. Explore your options, which include:

1. Standing workstation. We’ve gone over this plenty of times. I won’t do it again. Just do it if you can; it’s well worth it. Consider presenting your boss the data in that post as justification for standing. If he or she doesn’t go for it, you might have to rig up something yourself clandestine-style, or try something else entirely.

2. Standing on one leg, a la Seth Roberts. Seth was getting huge benefits from standing while working, but doing so for eight hours a day wasn’t feasible. He found that standing on each leg until exhaustion twice a day (for a total of about 30-40 minutes) got him the same benefits in a fraction of the time. I love getting lots of bang for my buck (hence my love for sprints and intense workouts), so this is worth a shot if you can’t do the standing thing for eight hours a day, either because it’s physically difficult or because your work won’t allow it.

3. Staying active throughout the work day. If you can’t hook up the standing station and you’re too embarrassed to try balancing on one leg, maybe you just get up every half hour and do stuff. Walk around, pump out a couple minutes of squatting, do some stretching. Break up your sitting and avoid long stretches of unmitigated motionlessness.

Mitigate the problem. Sitting will lengthen your hip extensors and tighten your flexors, but you aren’t helpless. You can fix the problem by strengthening your extensors and stretching your flexors:

1. Kelly Starrett’s “couch stretch.” This one is a real bastard, but in Starrett’s words it will let you bask in the sublime feeling of “undoing years of sitting.” Watch the video and do the stretch a couple times a week. You’ll marvel at how great your hips feel. And it only takes a few minutes.

2. Work on your internal hip rotation. Emulate what this guy’s doing. If it hurts, you need it.

3. Maintain a strong relationship with your glutes. Now, I know you Primal folks probably keep in touch with your glutes via plenty of squats, deadlifts, sprints, and over-the-shoulder admiring glances at the mirror, but if you’re sitting for hours each day there’s bound to be some disconnect. Glute bridges are a popular exercise, but I think weighted hip thrusts as popularized by Bret Contreras really build that lasting solidarity between you and your buttocks. If you think you’re engaging your glutes but are unable to establish the glute-brain connection, try poking your butt as you engage it. By actually feeling it harden against your finger, you’ll be able to establish the neurological connection, thus making future engagements easier and more effective.

4. Daily Grok squats and Grok hangs. Stretch your limbs and your body across all dimensions. Sit in a Grok squat and do a full Grok hang for at least one minute twice a day.

All That Typing

Lightly grab the middle of your forearm while pantomiming typing with the hand of the arm you’re grabbing. What do you notice? A vast network of tendons and connective tissue running up your entire arm supports the function of your fingers. You can feel it working and expressing as you “type.” That network can get gummed up, especially when overworked in less than ideal conditions – like a forty-hour workweek (that’s actually more like fifty). Poor typing posture, either from improper seating arrangements or inactive and tight muscles, can make things even worse. Obviously, you’ll want to correct the underlying postural/workstation/muscular issues, but what can you do for sore hands, fingers, or the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome? You can’t realistically go back to quill and parchment, so try these suggestions:

1. Try nerve glides. This is a good guide that the Bees and I have found very helpful when dealing with typing-related pain. My personal favorite is the median nerve glide, which focuses on the carpal tunnel nerves. Here it is:

  • Sweep your arm out to the side until it is slightly behind you, palm facing forward, elbow gently straight
  • Pull your wrist back until you feel a gently tension somewhere in the arm
  • Relax the wrist forward until tension is relieved
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Ease the tension on the wrist to about half
  • Holding this position, gently raise your arm until you feel tension (stay below shoulder height)
  • Lower the arm until tension is relieved
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Ease the tension on the arm to about half
  • Tilt your head (bring opposite ear towards opposite shoulder) until you feel tension
  • Straighten the neck until tension is relieved
  • Repeat 10 times

Try the rest of ‘em, too. Pick another glide and do them each once a day, at least. Once you start feeling better, you can probably drop it down to just one glide once a day.

2. Get a rubber band with decent tension, or perhaps a hair scrunchy. Take the affected hand and touch all five finger tips together, forming a sort of point. Slip the band or scrunchy around all five fingers and draw them apart against the resistance of the band. It’s like a reverse squeeze. Most people are far stronger gripping than they are going the opposite direction, so it’s worthwhile. Do this casually whenever you have time – in between emails, at home while watching TV, even while driving, you can keep it up with the off hand.

3. Hand massages. The palm of your hand has a fair amount of muscle. Like with any muscle, deep massage will break up knots and improve function – and reduce pain stemming from poor function. Dig into your palm with a ball or even your knuckles, or have someone else give you a deep hand massage. Try this halfway through the day. Note how your hands feel typing, give it a good five-minute working over with the ball or knuckle, then try typing again. Does it feel more natural? If so, treat your hands to a massage a few times each week, or more often, if you can find the time (you can find the time).

All That Shoulder Slumping

Sitting plus typing plus intensely focusing on a screen a few inches below and in front of us has created a nation of slumped shoulders, protracted scapulas, unstable shoulder joints, and tight pecs. We compound the issue with poor text messaging posture, but what happens when we spend a good portion of our lives slumping forward at the shoulders? Ideally (naturally), our shoulder blades are stable, retracted, and down. This protects our shoulders and allows full mobility without bumping into connective tissues. When we slump in front of the laptop, our shoulder blades drift apart, or abduct, putting our shoulder stability in jeopardy. Try fully protracting your shoulder blades (pushing your arms as far forward as possible by spreading your shoulder blades). Now, try lifting your arms directly over head, like you were performing an overhead press or setting up for a dead hang pullup. You can’t do it comfortably. Your shoulders are out of place. Do the opposite: retract and set your shoulder blades back, then lift your arms overhead. It should be a lot easier. That’s how shoulders are supposed to work, but the former example is how most shoulder slumpers “work.” Furthermore, slumping shoulders will pull the rest of your spine out of order, simply because you’ve got the combined weight of your big head and upper trunk pulling down. Not good.

1. Sit well. Recall the Gokhale Method. Key points include sitting with your butt “behind” you, rolling your shoulders one at a time forward, up, back, and then down, and keeping a relaxed, upright torso. Like so.

2. Where are you looking? If I’m sitting, I find it most comfortable for my monitor to be at or even slightly above eye level. This helps me look straight ahead without requiring downward head tilt, which often leads the rest of the upper thoracic into a slumping pattern – especially if you’re not vigilant and you’re prone to lapsing back into bad habits. If I’m standing, I’m not slumping, so slightly below eye level is perfect.

3. Maintain your thoracic spine. Consciously forcing yourself to keep your shoulder blades retracted won’t work forever. If you want it to stick, you’ve got to improve your thoracic spine at all times. Balance your horizontal pushing (bench, pushups) with enough horizontal pulling (rows). When benching, doing pullups, or doing rows, keep those shoulder blades retracted (back and down). Maintain good habits.

Tools

Finding lasting fixes may be ideal, but certain tools can help with the transition (or forever, really).

1. Kneeling chair. I’ve heard mixed reviews (with an unfavorable one coming from Maya White), but recent research suggests that they might be better than standard office chairs for improving lower back pain and promoting proper lumbar curvature.

2. Anti-fatigue mat. So your boss has finally succumbed to your entreaties and you’ve got yourself a standup workstation. The only problem is that your feet get tired really quickly. What to do? Try an anti-fatigue mat. Static standing is arguably just as novel as static sitting, but static standing on a somewhat soft-ish vinyl mat can make it a lot easier.

3. Ergonomic mouse and/or keyboard. The jury seems to be out on whether these are worth the money. I’ve never felt the need, but here are two different views from people who talk about this stuff for a living. One and two.

You are not guaranteed a hobbling gait, crooked knobby claws for hands, and hunch back simply because you spend the work week on a computer in an office. You can counter the postural imbalances and pain with smart stretching, mobility work, and exercise. You can avoid them altogether, or at least mitigate their impact, by changing how you sit or work at a computer. No standing in perpetuity required (although it can’t hurt!).

Got any more tips for the office workers among us? Let me know how you deal with it in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Great post, I could definitely use some of those tricks now that exams are coming up soon.

    Usually my lower back gets achy after a few days of sitting down and studying, too bad my schoolmates would probably think something strange about me if I were to stand and read in the library.

    Like you said, I think it is critical to have a good sitting position. Sitting slouching or hunchbacked is guaranteed to cause problems

    Kris wrote on March 29th, 2011
  2. Just what I needed for the home stretch of tax season!

    AquaReef wrote on March 29th, 2011
  3. One thing I do is to alternate my activities. I am lucky in that I work from home but once I’ve written a blog post or similar, I’ll spend 15 minutes on exercise, or I’ll do a sprint. Good for the mind too.

    Oh, and I love this: ‘You make little changes that only you notice and they make a huge difference. Life only becomes pathological if you do nothing to address the problems that arise.’

    If only more people would take this advice…

    Alison Golden wrote on March 29th, 2011
  4. This post is so timely. I’ve been looking for ways to reduce the negative effects of sitting in an office for 8 hours a day. I swear some days I can FEEL it slowly killing me.

    Rocknroll wrote on March 29th, 2011
  5. Great timing for me as well. I work from home and my boyfriend is going to build a fold down standing desk for me in my new office so I can alternate between standing and sitting. I need to research different seating options for those times when I do have to sit, and at the moment it’s all the time. But I am fortunate I can go out for walks, work in socks or barefoot, get up and move around as need be. But when it gets really busy I’m stuck to the computer for long stretches.

    Sandy wrote on March 29th, 2011
  6. I have long contemplated trying a standing workstation but I doubt I could stand that long. I would hate to cause a huge commotion at work and get the facilities folks to alter my workstation only to find that I can’t stand for 8+ hours. They’d be PISSED to have to put it all back the old way.

    CJ wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • I have a desk job as well and actually have a desk station that can be lifted up so I can stand. It’s nice and very ergonomic. I also walk 30 min on my lunch break, and on two 15 minute breaks. That is an hour of walking a day at my job! Plus, I do a CrossFit in the morning so I don’t feel so mentally dead or physically uncomfortable while I am at work. :)

      Brittany wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • Check this out you can alternate between standing and sitting. Still not real standard, but solves the problem.
      http://zafu.net/ecoshelf.html

      Patrick Clark wrote on October 5th, 2011
    • My office was amazing enough to create a standing work station for me AND they also allowed me to get a drafting chair so I can sit down when I get tired of standing. Just something to consider. The chairs aren’t cheap but if your office is willing to work with you, I would highly recommend working that into the deal ;)

      Brittany wrote on July 1st, 2013
  7. Thanks for this post – I crank away in my office for 10-12 hours a day and this has a lot of information. I hope to transition to a new office soon, and hope to get a standing desk at that point.

    J wrote on March 29th, 2011
  8. Thank you!!!!
    I have a pull-up bar here, but the doorway is too wide :(
    So now it’s a push-up bar, for the time being. I’ve already done those & my crunches at my desk (I sit on a balance ball) today.
    I am going through all the other ideas.
    YAY!!
    thank you thank you!!

    Peggy wrote on March 29th, 2011
  9. If you have an at home office–try a REAL kneeling chair: http://www.zafu.net/benches.html

    I have low back pain, and this thing saved my life.

    But . . . I have a sneaky feeling corporate wouldn’t be okay with it.

    Rinda Goff wrote on March 29th, 2011
  10. I just negotiated a contract with a local company here to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day in exchange for a ton of cash. This is exactly the information I need. Thanks!

    Chris wrote on March 29th, 2011
  11. I’m curious what your thoughts on replacing a chair with an exercise ball are?

    Kaveh wrote on March 29th, 2011
  12. I have switched to a standing desk at work and it has done great things for my posture (fixes the slumping automatically, but the shoulders and lower back curve require a little mindfulness of the Gokhale method).

    Another thing to be mindful about is how you pick things up off the floor (or bend down to greet a dog). If you’re like most people, you go onto your toes. You should be going into a squat position or bending at the hip. Either way, remember to keep your weight on your heels and your back straight.

    Marcy wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • I usually put one foot forward and bend just a little at the hip, putting my weight more on the forward foot. If I need to go any lower I bend the forward knee a bit, keeping the other leg straight so that that heel comes off the ground. I suppose I could take it further by shifting my weight back, bending the front knee more and going into a half kneel on the other leg.

      P.M.Lawrence wrote on March 31st, 2011
    • I once saw the Duke of Wellington’s reading chair in a museum. It was much like on ordinary chair, only the “back” was actually the front, sloping away a little more than usual, and it was only supported in the middle so his legs could go around while he leaned forward onto it. I can imagine that being the basis of a very compact work station, with an angled mirror mounted in front of it reflecting a reversed screen on the other side of the front-not-back at a greater visual distance than the actual physical dimensions, a bit like a HUD (head up display).

      P.M.Lawrence wrote on March 31st, 2011
  13. I use Scirocco Take a Break timer to remind me to get up from my desk at least every half hour.

    Christine wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • Try the pommodoro technique. There are timers you can use for this too. Basically it’s a timer, you work for 20 minutes, then you stop and take a break, then start up again.

      http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/resources/ThePomodoroTechnique_v1-3.pdf

      There’s timers for MacOS, Windows and Linux. Google away, it’s good stuff.

      My own trick is to drink lots of green tea (or water, or coffee.) Get up to get some tea now, 5 minutes later, get up to visit the bathroom. 30mins later repeat. :)

      raydawg wrote on April 1st, 2011
    • I normally work out at home with a pair of 50lbs dumbbels. I recently bought a 25lb one from a sports store near work.

      The guys at work have a weird habbit of walking around while on conference calls (we have wireless headsets, but you can use cellphones this way too.)

      Instead of doing that, I just use the dumbbell to do some curls or other exercises.

      It’s not heavy enough to cause me to sweat or grunt, so it’s fine. Just have to make sure to see if anyone’s coming down the hallway so they don’t get whacked.

      I got some weird looks at first, but got the guys around me into too. They borrow mine when I’m not using it. :)

      raydawg wrote on April 1st, 2011
  14. To help keep my shoulders back and down while typing, seated at my desk, I use a lap desk to hold my keyboard and mouse. I have a keyboard without the number pad on the right side (but with full-size keys) so that both the keyboard and mouse fit easily on the lap desk. This helps me keep my arms down and close to the body instead of reaching out in front of me.

    The lap desk also helps when I convert to a standing work area. I just set my lightweight monitor on top of a milk crate style box and place my lap desk (with mouse and keyboard) on top of a shorter printer stand. Voilà! Standing work area!

    Karen wrote on March 29th, 2011
  15. Hey Mark!

    Just wondering what you thought about sitting at work using Swiss Balls. Does this improve things at all?

    Great post!

    Kris wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • The key part to your post is “sitting at work using Swiss Balls”. You are still sitting thus lengthening and weakening your (glutes).

      Stand up and strengthen your hips!!!

      Jared wrote on March 31st, 2011
  16. My low-back issues started 9 years ago when I became a desk jockey. Like Rocknroll, I feel like it’s killing me an hour at a time.

    I typically spend 1hr + per evening trying to loosen up. MobilityWod.com is the bomb. The foam roller, stick and tennis/lacrosse balls are very good alternatives/compliments to static stretching.

    Matt wrote on March 29th, 2011
  17. Maximizing health while seated at a desk for 40-50 hours a week is an everyday challenge for me. Here’s a few ways I deal with it that weren’t mentioned in the article.

    1) Skip lunch and work out instead, preferably outdoors. Primal diet makes fat burning easy, so skipping a meal is no biggie. I go for a light jog interspersed with walking and sprinting, punctuated by shoulder and back exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and handstands. Staring at the blue sky and breathing outside air are great antidotes to the unnatural lighting and stale air of many offices.

    2) Don’t use the back of the chair. Rather, sit forward towards the edge so your core actively supports your upper body with correct posture.

    3) Chair-assisted lumbar traction. Place your palms on the armrests and raise your body into a dip position, with the tips of your feet touching the floor. Hold this position while you thrust your hips back and forth, side to side, and in circles. This is a great way to target the L5-S1 vertebral disk, that Achilles’ heel of office workers everywhere. Just don’t let your co-workers see you doing it.

    4. Ab squeezes. At random times while seated, tighten your core, attempting to pull your navel towards your spine. Clench hard for several seconds. This helps counter atrophy of the abdominal muscles and is another way to protect your back.

    5. Take advantage of every opportunity for physical exercise, such as climbing stairs, lugging around boxes of copy paper, and doing push-ups when alone in an elevator.

    6. Drink water constantly. Not only will it help you stay hydrated in an HVAC environment, which is important to spine health and so much more, it will also provide plenty of incentive to take those crucial bathroom breaks.

    7. Fidget. Tap your toes, swing your legs. This is a great way to stave off stiffness and keep your metabolism from sinking into hibernation mode.

    There’s so much more… this topic deserves a book-length treatment.

    Timothy wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • Timothy,
      great advice.. see you soon!

      Lars

      Lars1000 wrote on March 31st, 2011
  18. I am a high school chemistry teacher and dance team assistant. Needless to say, between tutoring, setting up and running labs, and teaching dance afterschool, I’m on my feet from 8 am to 7 pm. My feet started to hurt so I ditched the cute, fancy heels for some ugly patent FitFlop clogs. I hated to buy into the “wobble board” shoes but they have really saved my feet! I’d say to anyone who wants to get out from behind a desk, try being a teacher! Our prinicipals who keep an eye on us give us bad marks for sitting behind the desk! :)

    Cortney wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • i’m a teacher too! i teach 7th and 9th grade, and sit for maybe 20 minutes a day. i can count on one hand how many times i’ve sat during a class this year, and am constantly moving around the room. i usually count it as an hour towards my 2-5 hour per week easy movement goal!

      moreandmore wrote on March 29th, 2011
  19. I changed to a standing up desk several weeks ago and I can feel the difference already. No more hip flexxor tightness. Feels great.

    It also allows me to lunge, squat and walk on the spot.

    randallfloyd wrote on March 29th, 2011
  20. I was fortunate enough after college to get a job that required standing all day. I was a sign maker for several years and there’s no sitting doing that. We were constantly standing, moving, & picking up things (& fixing stupid errors from the office, but that’s another story…)

    It took several weeks to get used to standing for 8+ hours a day, but we had some of these anti-fatigue mats so it was a bit easier (although the rest of the shop was stone cold concrete).

    These days I’m doing computer work from home and sitting for longs periods really took its toll. I now stand as much as I can, and it’s just like the old days of sign making. Feels good & I move around a lot more since I’m already standing. (Like “happy dances”, “just got something accomplished” dances, “I feel the need to squat” moments, etc … yep I’m a dork)

    KevinT wrote on March 29th, 2011
  21. I miss the days when I had an adjustable desk. I mix up my days by going for a walk, frequent stretching, taking off my shoes when I walk around.
    When I work from home I put my laptop on my window sill which allows me to stand. Unfortunately I work from home less and less…

    Lars1000 wrote on March 29th, 2011
  22. Thorough, nice job. I especially liked the information on Hip Extension, following one of your links led to a cavalcade of other sources and information on youtube, funny how that always happens.

    Time to do some office work! Yeah!

    Jeff wrote on March 29th, 2011
  23. I just lifted my 250-300lb desk (lift heavy things) 16″ onto cinder blocks. Some pieces of grey felt will hopefully help to hide the uber-industrial look. for the first day, I am energetic, focused and efficient. I am happy to dance around to my music as I plug away at the keyword.

    Photos posted to your Facebook account of the modification.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marks-Daily-Apple/31392528863

    Zzzaxx wrote on March 29th, 2011
  24. I used to have a workspace that was accepting of my sitting on a Swiss ball instead of a chair. (Can you say dot com days!) It was great! I found that my posture improved and I gained a fair amount of stabilizing force in my obliques from reaching for the phone, for files, etc. I would also rock my hips side to side when on long phone calls to keep my lower back active and alive. Wow, I miss those days! I’m going to try a standing station soon.

    jdperkins wrote on March 29th, 2011
  25. great post.
    i just started working life recently. spending 50 hours a week staring at a computer screen and sitting is really getting to me.

    unfortunately i work in an open plan office, with a very unadjustable desk (and i can’t even raise the height of my monitor either. and definitely nowhere in the office to bust out any quick exercises…

    the suggestions are all very good though, and I’ll try to see what i can do to make things better, because all this sitting is really killing me.

    i literally am sitting at work for 9-11 hours a day. it is horrid.

    shz wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • Like wise… we have a new work set up which is now an open plan office. Apparently it’s what the younger folks (20s) are supposed to like but they hate it too.

      Lars1000 wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • I work for a startup who also has an open office plan. My solution? I brought in a square driver, removed the “unadjustable” desktop and placed it on a wood frame I made, turning it into a standing desk. The funniest part of that story is a couple days later, the company ergonomics safety officer saw it and said it wasn’t ergonomic and “a big no no.” I continued to use it for another six months.

      Lyle wrote on March 29th, 2011
  26. Awesome post! My biggest problem is shoulder slumping. I get a ‘tsk tsk’ from my chiropractor every time I visit him. We are moving into a new house soon and I will have space for a home office (I telecommute) so I’m looking forward to setting up a proper standing desk and workstation in hopes that will help. Thanks for the tips!!

    Dawn wrote on March 29th, 2011
  27. Fantastic work as always Mark. I feel so “primal” in everything I do, but I didn’t even realise until I read this article just how bad my work is for me. I’m starting up a business and doing postgrad in addition to spending 8 hours a day sitting down at work, so that turns into 11 hours a day sitting at a computer. Clearly my gym time, runs and judo just isn’t enough. I really need to make some changes, thanks for the wake up call.

    Peter Ross wrote on March 29th, 2011
  28. About a month ago I purchase a geekdesk from geekdesk.com, took delivery at my office, came in on a Tuesday night, and made the swap. I have the luxury of working for a small company of ~100 people, and while I had to foot the bill there was no push back from anyone, just much interest in it.
    Though I do go in the sitting mode at times when doing very focused troubleshooting, I stand at least half the day. I feel much better and a bit more solid in my midsection, front and back.

    Griff wrote on March 29th, 2011
    • Geekdesk for my home office might just be the thing.

      Lars1000 wrote on March 30th, 2011
  29. My chiropractor gave me a good exercise for tight pecs caused by slumping shoulders. I call it “Be Jesus”.

    Stand in a doorway (preferably with a wall on both sides of the door), spread your arms out like Jesus and lean into the gap for 30-60 seconds. You should be able to feel the stretch in your pecs.

    I’m very lucky where I work. This year I was able to get a new chair because I was getting sciatica from my old one, and we’re in the process of getting a treadmill workstation. Well, the treadmill & desk are here, but the computer’s not set up at it yet. Hopefully it will be ready to go next week, but I think I’m going to have to beat off the other staff with a stick :)

    belinda wrote on March 29th, 2011
  30. Thanks for the tips, Mark!

    I used to have to take minutes at long meetings several times a month and one stretch that helped me with the inevitable wrist pain was: extend your hands and arms straight out, palm down, make a fist, point your knuckles at the ground, release your fist and point your fingertips straight down. Then reverse the movements back to the starting point. You end up looking like you’re trying to land a jet, but it gives a little extra stretch and pull, and is a good way to reverse the cocked-wrist strain from the keyboard.

    I still sit at a desk all day and blog at night on a laptop, but at work I have an arrangement with a couple coworkers to remind each other of good posture when we walk by. It works wonders, and now we often straighten up automatically when we see each other. We also take breaks and do laps around the building and up and down the stairs, or around the block if it’s nice out (but it’s Seattle, so the office laps are more frequent).

    Lauren wrote on March 29th, 2011
  31. Great article and discussion.

    As a long-time Cube Dweller it all boils down to one phrase – MOVE. Get creative and take breaks to get moving (stretch, workout, run steps, body weight exercises, etc).

    Just get moving.

    I wasn’t sure if anyone sat on swiss balls anymore. That fad seemed to burst with the tech-bubble.

    TroyP wrote on March 29th, 2011
  32. poor bastard! Try dealing with chronic gut issues and attempting to go primal while driving 40k plus a year/ Make every attempt you want to get some movement but literally not moving for 2 hours at a time is brutal. It is what it is and I am not unhappy about it. Primal diet alone overcomes alot of the sitting.

    Ken wrote on March 29th, 2011
  33. As a runner, leaving the office to head out for my daily run can be treacherous. With tight hips, a forgotten butt, and a sore back I’m asking for an injury.

    A few things I do during the day to make this transition easier: talk on the phone standing up, send print jobs to the other side of the office, walk to colleague’s offices rather than call or email them, and focus on a few static/dynamic stretches throughout the day. A dynamic warm-up is also a must when exercising after work.

    Jason Fitzgerald wrote on March 29th, 2011
  34. Wow what a difference today’s article has made for me already. I’ve made sure once an hour to get up and walk around the whole building for 10 mins, get outside and do some stretches and a few pushups etc. For the first time in a month I don’t have my attack of the lunchtime sleepies. Thanks again Mark!

    Peter Ross wrote on March 29th, 2011
  35. Great tips to avoid these common office problems. I don’t get up from my desk nearly as often as I should. However, I do make it a point to walk up and down the stairs a few times during the day. I certainly try to avoid typing problems and try to sit up straight as well. Not always easy though.

    Dave wrote on March 29th, 2011
  36. Very timely post. At home I have a standup workstation and a desk as well. For the past month I have been only sitting as their were papers all over my standup workstation. I hated it as I slouched down often and never felt comfortable.

    I took the time last night to organize my work area and am now currently standing up as I type this.

    If their are any of you who are on the fence of buying a standup workstation then I strongly recommend you jump over the fence and make the purchase. Or set up a manual one. Just try it. Do what you can to convince your boss. He or she may join you.

    Primal Toad wrote on March 29th, 2011
  37. The type of work I do forces me to be tied to my desk all day long except for break times. We have standing stations but *we are not allowed to use them*. I have asked for one, since they are already set up and they won’t let me use it.

    However, they will let me stand at my sit down desk, using a breakfast/computer in bed type tray, which I have been doing all day every day since November 15th of last year. I prop my monitor up on about 3 reams of paper, and since I’m a short it’s working pretty well. I don’t know what I would do if I was taller than 5’5″.

    I’ve also found that standing all day is a great conversation starter. People I’ve never met come up and ask (always the same thing, same way) “do you really stand *all* day?” They all say they could never do it because it would hurt their back, etc.

    For those that don’t think they could stand all day, unless you have an injury or a preexisting back issue, it’s totally possible. It took me about 3 days of a little bit of pain and adjustment, but now it’s just how I work. I don’t think I’ll every go back to sitting unless forced (I would put up a fight first!) or until I leave this employer.

    Dawna wrote on March 29th, 2011
  38. I have an additional suggestion that could be very helpful for the typing aspect.

    Dvorak Format.

    This keyboard format was invented by studying the anatomy of the hands, the typing practices of secretaries, and the most common grouping together of letters. And the position of the keys were adjusted accordingly.

    Benefits:
    Hand soreness goes away
    People can’t mess with your computer
    You will be able to type faster (though not as much as people have claimed, after a year of casually typing Dvorak, I’m 7wpm faster than I ever was with qwerty [35 to 42])

    And you don’t have to buy anything to have this format on your computer, it’s already loaded. All you have to do is (on microsoft xp) go to:
    control panel

    regional language settings

    language tab

    push the ‘details’ button

    click on ‘add’

    find the one for Dvorak under “keyboard layout”

    under the preferences, press a button called ‘language bar’ and make it visible so you (or other users of the computer) can toggle back and forth.

    An additional benefit:
    Because I changed just the format and not the keys, I have learned to type without needing to look at the keyboard, which probably accounts for much of my increase in wpm.

    chipin wrote on March 29th, 2011
  39. Doing band pull apart for your upper back and stretching your hip flexors help alot also.

    Gary Deagle wrote on March 29th, 2011
  40. Mark,

    Great tips for cubicle dwellers! I happen to be one myself and sitting for 8+ hours a day is certainly not ideal for a healthy and balanced lifestyle, but it’s good to know there are some small things you can do to help prevent your body from falling into a sedentary rut.

    Alykhan

    Alykhan wrote on March 29th, 2011

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