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

The Art of Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Sedentary Job

workchair2A series of recent studies have implicated sedentary lifestyle in the obesity epidemic. The idea is, even if you hit the gym a few times a week, parking it in front of the T.V. at night dwindles away any benefits gained. Every hour on the couch costs us dearly. But what about the office chair? Dare we take this one on? A recent study does exactly that in targeting the specific role of sedentary work in our nation’s obesity crisis. Our desk jobs, the study’s authors suggest, represent a key culprit behind our society’s expanding waistlines.

Dr. Timothy Church, Dr. John McIlhenny and their associates examined trends related to occupational activity and the corresponding increase in American obesity rates since the 1960s. Fifty years ago, over fifty percent of occupations included moderate physical exertion. Today that number has dropped to less than twenty percent. In keeping with this pattern, Drs. Church and McIlhenny suggest we use, on average, a hundred calories less during a workday than we did fifty years ago. The impact of this change adds up over time – one belt notch at a time.

It makes sense. Sure, a lot of people in this country watch a lot of T.V. However, most of us spend more time at our jobs during the workweek than we do at home – when it comes to non-sleeping hours, that is. Add up eight hours (at least), lunch (which we may or may not actually take), and commute (more sitting!), and you’re looking at ten hours effectively stricken from the “free time for fitness” schedule. Ten hours is a lot to try to make up for. (What would Grok say?) By the time we get home, there’s cooking, cleaning, laundry, phone calls, and bills. That doesn’t even allow for our partners, our kids, friends, and any volunteer or social engagements. Suddenly, it’s 11:00. It’s hard not to see the study authors’ point.

It wasn’t always this way of course. A hundred years ago most of us were farmers or factory workers. Even those who worked in shops carried and stocked their own shelves. Nurses, doctors, and other service attendants were on their feet all day. Work meant manual labor to all but a relative few. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not pining for the good old days of child labor and 12-hour work days, six days a week. As Dr. Church suggests, however, there’s something significant to be learned from the trend itself.

In the last couple of decades, many business leaders have come to understand that a healthy set of employees means fewer sick days, lower insurance costs, and increased productivity. Companies have increasingly started reimbursing gym memberships or other health equipment. Some offer workplace gyms (and the opportunity to use them over a lunch hour or break). The message with these programs has mostly been this, however: do it, but do it on your own time. The idea of working out during the workday itself introduces a new angle and may be somewhat of a game changer.

Some businesses have already jumped on the wagon. The convertible standing workstations outfitted with customized treadmills have established a kind of gold standard, an ideal style workstation that I think most of us find ourselves daydreaming about at some point. One study suggests these vertical, treadmill equipped workstations alone could allow obese workers to lose some 30 kilograms a year with just two hours of work day use. Despite the $4000+ price tag, some companies offer them to each employee and even stock small conference rooms with them. They believe the investment in worker health pays off with increases in employee efficiency as well as boosts to individual creativity and meeting productivity.

There are less expensive options, however. Research has shown that offering a portable pedal machine (essentially a footstool sized set of pedals) is enough to significantly add exercise for study participants (some up to 13.5 miles cycled per day). All subjects reported that they’d continue using the device if their employers offered them the option. The devices in question cost around $90-$100. Compare that to the cost of a single sick day or a month’s worth of insulin supplies.

Even without specific workplace equipment, there’s plenty we can do to counteract the sedentary nature of our jobs. How many of us with desk jobs skip our breaks and take lunch at our desk? How often do we actually get up out of our chairs? Research demonstrates that even small breaks make big differences. Breaks as short as a minute were enough to make a positive difference in both subjects’ waist size and C-reactive protein measures. The more, the merrier. How about keeping a set of light dumbbells or kettlebells at your desk for some lifts here and there? Maybe one of those step platforms for calf raises? Then there’s always the chance to run up and down the office stairwells. Take advantage of the empty conference room to do a few minutes of yoga. Go ahead: be that guy or gal. Why not?

I happen to believe in the concept of individual initiative (as well as responsibility), but I also believe that good health doesn’t just benefit a person’s after hours home life. A business has plenty to gain from a healthy workforce. I know mine does (three of my employees are now sporting standing workstations). Perhaps more business owners and managers will consider how some of these options can serve their workplace efficiency and employee retention. Maybe more individual employees will take it upon themselves to initiate their own measures – whether at their own desks or in the community rooms. Studies – and media stories – like these can hopefully make these conversations – and productive changes – easier.

The ultimate, underlying message of this study for me is the emphasis on active living as a whole. For too long we’ve heard about twenty minutes three times a week. We’re so bent on minimizing efforts, honing in on the absolute minimum exertion we must make, we’ve lost the forest through the trees. That’s what I love about the Grok example. The lifestyle of our hunter-gatherer ancestors offers a historically sound standard, a telling model that we can measure against the life we live today. Our history can teach us about our genetic expectations, which contemporary research can then confirm. Too often, we see how far modern life has strayed from physiological imperatives.

As Dr. Ross Brownson, an epidemiologist who took up the workplace inactivity question just a few years ago, responded to the recent study in a New York Times article a few weeks ago: “‘We need to think about physical activity as a more robust concept than just recreational physical activity…. In many ways we’ve engineered physical activity out of our lives, so we’ve got to find ways to put it back into our lives, like taking walks during breaks or having opportunities for activity that are more routine to our daily lives, not just going to the health club.’” Hmmm…activity as a lifestyle itself. As much moderate and slow moving as we can muster. Does that sound familiar to anyone here?

Finally, for those whose particular job duties or workplace culture negate the possibility of active adaptations, rest assured you’re not doomed to a life of ill health despite all your at-home efforts. (We all knew this, correct?) Certainly, it’s worth taking the breaks you can and indulging in the exercise you can manage during the workday. However, make your free time fitness count for all it can with interval training and as much general activity as you can fit into your personal hours. If stress is an issue at your job, keep the damage to a minimum with a simple stress management practice (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, etc.) at home and sneak a minute of mantras or poses into your day. Finally, diet of course is 80% of the body weight picture (sounds familiar, no?). Your Primal plan has you covered.

Thanks for reading today. Let me know what you think of the workplace-obesity connection. How has an active job been healthy for you? Alternately, how have you gotten creative coping with a sedentary one? Have a great week, everybody!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. My husband switched jobs roughly one year ago. He went from working on his feet all day as an automotive technician to driving all over the state to service air compressors. The weight he’d maintained for several years jumped up suddenly by about 5 or 6 pounds. Coincidence?? I think not.

    Ashley North wrote on June 21st, 2011
  2. I walk on both of my breaks at work for added axercise but am now thinking about getting one of those portable pedaling exercisers for more added movement benefits. My office does not like the idea of standing workstations so the pedaller would be a benefit.

    Georgette wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I ordered one immediately after reading this! Pedaler on the way :-)

      Nicole wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • well, guess I should drag mine out from under my desk & dust it off :(
      The *real* trick is to pedal while sitting on a balance ball!

      peggy wrote on June 21st, 2011
      • oh my gosh, is that even possible? that’s freaking…unicycling! Wow, I’ve gotta try that as a WOD, every day, till I master it!

        impressed wrote on June 21st, 2011
        • I just have a cheap-o set of pedals I think I got off of Amazon for like 25 bucks or so. Has a little knob to adjust “resistance”. It’s quite the feat to pedal, type, & balance on the ball w/o bashing your knees on the desk :D

          peggy wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I do not understand workplaces that are against standing workstations. Increasing evidence is demonstrating that it decreases incidence of repetitive strain injuries. I know my back hurts much less now that I am standing all day (doing “back-breaking work” as a therapist) versus when I sat all day in an outpatient hand-therapy clinic.

      fritzy wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I’d seen those and been wondering how much they would really add. Now I’m going to get one right now, for sure. My office culture is great about getting up and walking around, not so great about the standing desk idea.

      jj wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  3. Often when asked, friends of mine will share that they would LOVE to do some manual labor for a portion of the day rather than just sit at a desk all the time. Most of them aren’t quite ready to take on yoga in their work clothes while they wait for a meeting to start though! I suspect many on this site would be willing to give it a go though! :)

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I often volunteer to go on the dunks run for my coworkers, eventhough I don’t get anything. Just like to get out for a walk as often throughout the day as possible.

      Also, this post finally tipped the scale, convincing to officially request a standing desk at the office. Fingers crossed.

      Primal Pig wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  4. Mark,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now and this post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time! I have just been put in charge of creating a wellness program of sorts for my fellow employees at a small consulting firm. I would be interested to hear any suggestions you have for getting the ball rolling for workplace wellness programs for small companies (6-12 employees).

    Thanks!

    xsCaveWoman wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • This is a timely post as my company just started a little walking competition. They gave us each a pedometer and put us on teams. We have a goal that we need to reach in total miles by a certain date. So everyone walks and records their steps on Sharepoint. The top 3 teams will win prizes. Everyone really wants to win and we have all been trying to fit in ways to walk as much as possible – like taking the stairs instead of elevator, parking farther away, and walking on breaks.

      Daria wrote on June 21st, 2011
  5. i do 6-8 sprints to grab my coffee in the morning…play hack sack or just walk around…most of the time skip the lunch only have a breakfast and a cup of coffee. sometimes snack on a cucumber and some fruit…during the work i move around…squat when pickup things.also keep focus on my posture…every hour take 10-15 min walk. 10-15 min walk at least half an hour before i take off and sit in the traffic…after work allways do something..basketball..climbing..walking or a mix of all.empty stomach..dinner around 9 or 9:30 pm..veggies and a little meat..sleep at 10:30 am ..wake up at 6:00 am..and do it again…

    salim wrote on June 21st, 2011
  6. I set up a relatively crude, but effective standing desk at home. Now, if I could just do the same at work. It’s not pretty, but it feels great (I do a lot of keyboarding.)

    You can read more about it: http://www.jimdunkerley.com/my-stand-desk-less-sitting/.

    Also, at the day job, I set a timer to go off every 45 minutes, then I go for a walk or take a few flights of stairs to break things up.

    Jim

    Jim wrote on June 21st, 2011
  7. There are lots of exercises that can be done in a chair that take only moments to do: toe raises, heel raises, hip tilts, leg lifts, etc. These don’t even require you take your mind off what you are working on. Fidgeting has been proven to help lose weight but you can actually turn your fidgeting into a tone-up program if you choose to do so.

    Linda Sand wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I do fidget a lot. But mostly because my chair is so uncomfortable.

      Daria wrote on June 21st, 2011
  8. This is way I love my jon as a stay at home mom. Not much time to sit around, being pregnant and taking care of two boys I am up and down and all around all day!!

    The Real Food Mama wrote on June 21st, 2011
  9. Lucky to have always had work that called for moderate to hard excercise. Lucky, too, to have been able to keep at it, except for a few glitches over the last four decades.

    kem wrote on June 21st, 2011
  10. I’ve played with the standing desk in the past, and I enjoyed it at the time – but I’ve gone back to the more traditional desk in recent years. However, I do focus a lot on getting up (if you’re drinking the amount of water that you should every day, there should be some biological imperative to do so :)) and walking around a bit. Not only is it a good way to get a little fresh air, gather thoughts, and gain clarity on problems I’m working on solving. And it also goes a long way to help mitigate siloing, too.

    Hal wrote on June 21st, 2011
  11. As a trainer, this doesn’t really affect me all that much, as I move around alot during the day, and have 3-4 hours to workout if I want it. My clients however almost exclusively work desk jobs. One thing I always reccomend is to bring a physio ball to the office and sit on that instead of a chair. The ball forces you to use you core stabilization muscles to keep from falling of the ball while working, and during breaks there is and almost unlimited amount of exercises you can do with said ball. If you boss will let you do this, I have seen great results. Plus, at $9 at my local dicks, its extremely affordable.

    Jaybird wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Make sure to get a burst resistant ball. I used to sit on one at my former job, and it popped underneath me, which was both funny and very painful at the same time.

      Rachel wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I looooooooooooove my ball. When I pause to think or talk to someone, I wiggle around on it to stretch my hips and play around with balancing.

      I also have a kneeling chair, so when I find myself getting tired of the ball I switch to that, and vice-versa.

      cTo wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I second this suggestion! I’ve been using a stability ball instead of a chair for the last three weeks, and I’ve noticed my core and back getting stronger each week. Now, I don’t get fatigued until the end of the day (whereas when I started, I was sore by 10am!).

      Also, I do all kinds of stretches and exercises, keeping my spine and hips in motion. I have soooo much less tension in my upper back, shoulders, lower back, and hip flexors. It’s wonderful.

      Plus, it’s not nearly as difficult to arrange (or as conspicuous) as a standing workstation.

      Morgan wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Another component to all this that is so often overlooked is that the more you use your body, the more you get to know it and the sooner you recognize when something is “off” and can ward off something that could get serious. As a massage therapist, I see this all the time. It’s the active clients that know when something’s up and get help sooner. My inactive clients have much less connection with what’s going on in their bodies. They have less capacity to describe any discomfort they have – if they are aware of it – and less awareness of change.

      Amy wrote on June 22nd, 2011
    • I’ve seen a lot of people with these exercise balls and good to know people have had good results! Think I will try this tip.

      Yifan Zhang wrote on June 27th, 2011
  12. I believe there is a definite correlation. When I was teaching and working retail, I always weighed about 10 pounds less than I do now. I wear heels and dresses or skirts to work in the summer time, and I spend a lot of time working at my desk or sitting in meetings. Due to my clothing, I can’t exactly sprint up and down the stairwells at work.

    I have started getting up and walking away from my desk for a minute or so, but I haven’t seen any measurable results from these small efforts yet.

    I know a big part of the puzzle for me is my sedentary work lifestyle. I think adding extra slow movement on a daily basis is the key for me. Wonder if a pedal machine would fit under my desk.

    Rachel wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I understand about the heels. I wound up ditching mine (they hurt my feet anyway) and I wear ballet flats all the time now. We are lucky that our office building is on a nice quiet street with a sidewalk and I wanted to be able to get up from my desk and go walk. I think the flats still look cute with a skirt. :)

      Daria wrote on June 21st, 2011
      • Try the Vibram Five Finger Classic in all black. They work great with slacks and no one noticed for 3 weeks that I was wearing them.

        Lori wrote on June 21st, 2011
        • I did this last summer at my office!! I figured that the classics would go relatively unnoticed in black. My boss now refers to me as ‘feet’ because of my collection of black Vibrams that I often wear around the office haha

          xsCaveWoman wrote on June 22nd, 2011
      • Ooh, love the idea of ballet slippers. Is there a certain brand that you like? Where can I buy them?

        rachel wrote on June 21st, 2011
        • I use that term to describe just flats, I like the kind with a rounded toe, no heel or very very small heel. I’ve bought them at the typical shoe stores in the mall, like Nine West or department stores. If you do a google search on ballet flats you will see examples of what I mean. :)

          Daria wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  13. I think about this a lot. As a Project Manager my job means sitting at the computer, sitting in meetings, or sitting on the phone. Thankfully, I’m a self-employed contractor so when not in meetings I control my time so will often go to the gym for a quick 15 to 30 minute workout during the day. Still there are days when it’s hard to even squeeze that in.

    Darcy wrote on June 21st, 2011
  14. [Gets up from reading MDA and goes off to do some errands]

    ottercat wrote on June 21st, 2011
  15. Nice one, Mark! My back pain has basically disappeared since you started these posts on strengthening posture and the effects of sedentary lifestyles.

    Joe wrote on June 21st, 2011
  16. Fortunately my job as a scientist is more labor-intensive than most others, although I still spend about half my time in a cube. Hoping that we’ll get adjustable desks eventually here!

    Darrin wrote on June 21st, 2011
  17. The portable pedal exercisers sound interesting — can anyone recommend a brand?

    Anne wrote on June 21st, 2011
  18. I walk on both of my 15 minute breaks and on my 30 minute lunch break. That’s about 3-4 miles I get in during my work day. But I’ll be honest, I hate my desk job and get up bright and early to exercise before work so I feel less bad about sitting. I also avoid work “goodie days” and bring a Big Ass Salad for lunch everyday!!! I have made it a goal to find a less sedentary job….Mark any ideas? :)

    Brittany wrote on June 21st, 2011
  19. Right now I am typing this in my standing workstation at work, where I spend easily 3-4 hours a day, the rest is in my “chair” : the 75cm stability ball. I am lucky I have a gym at work and during the work day I snick to the gym and do stretches, foam roller passes, the works. Can’t complain!

    WildGrok wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I meant “sneak”

      WildGrok wrote on June 21st, 2011
  20. Sure sitting down a lot has something to do with it, but really, diet is the main culprit. If people ate better they would more instinctively get up and down out of their chair more often. I sit down for work too but I get up and down all the time – to go to the bathroom, get some tea, look around for something or other. If I eat like crap, however, and feel like crap, I am much more glued to my chair.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • In my office, though, whenever I got up I frequently would instinctively make a bee-line for the snack table. I got to associate getting up and moving around with going to get some junk food. Now that ive stopped eating it, I have to find new excuses to get up and move around ;)

      cTo wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • i agree. i think this is another “correlation is not causation” situation. a lot of people used to do sitting work in the past, but did not become obese.

      has everyone here read Stephan Guyenet’s discussion on food-reward…?

      tess wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • I think that’s true. The conventional paradigm is that we get energy when we eat food, but it depends on WHAT we eat. While all calories are potentially energy, our bodies either store that food energy as fat or release it from fat stores (depending on our insulin levels.) People who are gaining weight are–like those in a state of starvation–lacking energy…because their calories are being locked up as fat rather than being burned. I believe I move a lot because I burning fat, and I am more sluggish when I eat carbs and my body goes into “lock up those calories” mode.

      DThalman wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  21. I’ve had some jobs where you were not allowed to sit down all day. That was infinitely worse than being expected to sit all day. At least you are ALLOWED to stand up and walk around every once in a while. STanding on concrete all day is horrible. My back hurt a lot.

    The healthiest job I’ve ever had was when I was self-employed as a farmer and weaver. I didn’t make much money, but I was not at all fat. I moved all day long. It was before computers, and I didn’t have a tv.

    shannon wrote on June 21st, 2011
  22. My job just moved to a new building and as the cubicles were being put together, I requested a standing work station. I didn’t need to order any new furniture. A shelf was attached to my cube and a keyboard holder/mouse pad was installed on the shelf. It’s perfect and I love it! It’s also a great talking piece since most people can see my head when they walk through. I don’t usually sit much at work (I work in a lab) but I love that I now never sit except for lunch.

    Faith wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Providence Hospital?

      knifegill wrote on June 21st, 2011
  23. I work as a waitress, walking, bending, crouching, and lifting my whole shift. I have witnessed what happens to fellow servers when they transition into career jobs (in an office, where they sit on butt all day long in a cubicle). Let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.

    Nikkicole wrote on June 21st, 2011
  24. I am standing more and more at work and I think it is helping me quite a bit. I have a question that I hope some of you can help me with: I run a small trucking company and my drivers sit for 10 hrs. per day. They eat the most awful food and their sleep habits are also bad. I drove for 20 yrs. and it took a toll on my health. Give me some ideas that will help my drivers.

    mike wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • The cabins in trucks need to be fitted with seats that can go from sitting to a reclining standing position. Just being up on their feet and shifting their weight from foot to foot for an hour will make a difference. But these modifications will be expensive, with gas controls added to the steering column and other devices that can help to free the feet. Just an idea. Something I’ve thought about on long road trips when I was longing to stand while driving.

      knifegill wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Not having personal experience in the industry I don’t have any ideas except ask the drivers. Maybe create a incentive for ideas that turn into changes. They’d be more apt to come up with ideas if there was a tangible reward and more apt to make the changes if the idea came from their ranks. Also the more they see you do the more the collective mindset will shift.

      Sarah wrote on June 22nd, 2011
      • Thanks Susan, I’ll work on some incentives for them and see how that goes. I started eating primal about 2 months ago and have dropped about 20 lb. I feel much better and have a lot more energy. I try to stand at my computer most of the day and I walk around the office while talking on the phone. I haven’t had a pair of shoes on in 3 days. My family is beginning to think I’ve lost it but thats ok. My son is slowly starting to eat more primal and if he begins to loose weight I think that will be a big incentive for the other drivers because they see him weekly.

        mike wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  25. There has to be a whole culture change before companies see the necessity of workplace fitness. I used to think having a ‘desk’ career was the ultimate but now that I’m on this new quest for fitness it’s cumbersome. I’m constantly seeking new ways to move but that only goes so far. My co-workers probably think I have ADD with as many times as I’m getting up. Fitness as work is still not the norm and in some ‘silent’ respect it’s looked down upon if it gets in the way of work.

    Maggie wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • It is difficult to get over the feeling of other people judging you. I don’t have much reason to get up from my desk. I’m not a big coffee or tea drinker and I don’t eat from the vending machine so I have no reason to go into the breakroom so much. But if I do go in there and just stand there and watch some TV I feel like people will just think I’m a slacker. I could wander the halls but I’m afraid people would think I’m wierd.

      Daria wrote on June 21st, 2011
      • There’s always water; two pitchers a day gives me lots of reasons to stretch my legs.

        If you want to wander the halls, make sure you’re holding a notebook and pen and walking with a brisk step. Nobody will think you are weird. In fact, you may get a promotion…

        Timothy wrote on June 21st, 2011
        • Haha…I tried that and I was told to stop moving around and stay at my desk.
          Main problem was I was the only female in a building of 30 males and I’m not at all fugly…if ya get my hint.

          I went from a sales person that had to deal with customers and being on my feet 6-8 hours a day to a desk job, not being allowed to walk around. I gained 20 lbs in 1 year…and finally quit.
          I, too, thought having a desk job was the ultimate goal in having a career. Always thought desk jobs were so glorious and important…bah was I wrong.

          Primal Palate wrote on June 21st, 2011
        • Haha! Perhaps this ploy would have been more successful had you put your hair in a bun and worn horn-rimmed glasses. Then again, as the only woman among 30 men, the odds were against you from the start. Much better to be the only man among 30 women. Funny how that works.

          But good for you, ditching a job that left you twenty pounds heavier in just one year (!). Mortgaging your health for a little more money is short-sighted at best. I hope your current vocation keeps your hamstrings extended.

          Timothy wrote on June 21st, 2011
  26. I worked at a zoo for a year for an internship. Now I work at a desk as a science writer. I find myself LONGING for the days when I would spend an entire afternoon raking, hosing, and sweeping the zebra barn.

    I try to get up and move around as much as I can, though. I take walks around the office park, sometimes twice a day. I also have a group of friends at work who sometimes get together to go on a short jog/run over lunch.

    Some of the older (and, not gonna lie, much heavier) employees look at me weird when Im walking out of the building in my running clothes, or taking the time to do some yoga stretches by my desk, but guess who’s not hobbling on her way out to the car every day?

    cTo wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • That weird look you get from the sedentary employees might reflect inspiration more than opprobrium. They might not rush out to get their own pair of vibrams, but you are definitely planting the seed in their minds that there are other things to do at lunch besides eating.

      Living primally, while remaining humble yet unapologetic, is perhaps the best way to share the message with those who need to hear it.

      Timothy wrote on June 21st, 2011
  27. I made a promise to myself when I was ten years old and saw fat people everywhere that I would never accept a job where I sit down all day. I went from working in food service to being a spray finisher to roaming the halls of the hospital as a phlebotomist. And if they offered me a management position, I’d have to explain to them that I cannot and will not sit on the job. Being active and moving my body keeps me sane. When I sit at a desk too long, I actually start to feel crazy. I have no choice but to keep moving. Now I’m going to the park to pick some wild berries. Bye!

    knifegill wrote on June 21st, 2011
  28. One of the major Danish newspaper has a series of “lunch break fitness” routines specialized for work places. They are made by a personal and much approved personal trainer. I know the videos are in Danish but hopefully it’s possible to play them outside Dk as well. Maybe some will find them usefull to watch to get new ideas on how to combat that sore back and neck from sitting all day?

    http://politiken.tv/tjek_dk/guider/Frokostfitness/

    There are several more on the right column all starting with the name “frokostfitness”

    Lene wrote on June 21st, 2011
  29. I respect all this thinking on standing desks and the sedentry workplace, but I also think us Primalists are exempt to a certain degree. Most of the evils of the office have been linked to obesity, and that is not a problem for me on Primal. So what is the issue? Is the office a problem for those who are not obese? Hell yes! My feeling is that there is a lot more to it than just the weight issue. Just sitting still over long periods is not healthy neurologically, and then there is the unnatural office environment to consider. I know offices are bad for us, but the research seems to be a bit one eyed currently – or have I missed the other stuff?

    Mike McMillan wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • Right. It’s more than just the issue of weight, although a lot of the reports lean towards that since people care more about that than their health (or so it seems).
      I am lucky enough to work from home full-time. I built my own tread desk for less than $200. $100 for the desk and $75 for a treadmill off of craigslist. Works well so far. :)

      IcarianVX wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  30. This article rings true for me, an office worker for over 20 years. Just wanted to add that the issues associated with desking it for 8 hrs/day seem to go up exponentially with age. Gotta make that effort to stay active, especially after dinner.

    rose wrote on June 21st, 2011
  31. Looking back to all my time working in an office in New York (which, thankfully, is in the past), I wish I’d had two things then that I have now: 1) a standing desk; and 2) a bike mounted on a trainer, next to my bed, for riding right when I get up (so work outs get done before anything else, regardless of weather, with no gym travel time). Weights and stability ball are key too. :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on June 21st, 2011
  32. Great article. I took Mark’s advice some months ago regarding a standing workstation and cannot believe the difference it makes. I’m of the school of thought to act first and ask for forgiveness after, rather than asking for permission and being denied. I just got together some boxes etc and built my own standing workstation.
    Go for a walk every hour as well, just a couple of minutes and try to get outside. You won’t know yourself after a couple of weeks!

    Peter@themensdomain wrote on June 21st, 2011
  33. My company just purchased a treadmill with hydraulic desk and computer attached. Unfortunately, we’re waiting for them to write a ‘usage policy’ before we can use it!

    In the meantime, I get up from my desk to go to the water cooler, deliver mail, talk to people instead of emailing, etc.

    I also sneak off a couple of times a day to do a few wall pushups and squats in a quiet office as well as doing a 20-30 minute walk on my lunch hour – outside in nice weather, in the parking garage in poor weather.

    Belinda wrote on June 21st, 2011
  34. I remember my co-workers used to think I was so weird when I’d get up every hour ‘to go the bathroom’ (my excuse) and then go *upstairs* (shock horror!) to use the bathroom. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t just wait until my break and use the bathroom on the same floor. Your health is more important than fitting in – and why would you want to fit in with unhealthy people anyway? You can be a really good example by being ‘that guy or gal’, as Mark says.

    kerrybonnie wrote on June 21st, 2011
  35. Love this, Mark. Interesting note: I went to an education conference this spring and one of the sessions was on teaching BOYS. Suggestion #1: get them a desk they can stand at. Don’t make them sit! They hate it, and it’s bad for their mental function.

    The session was about educating boys, but it sounds like we’d all be better off with more standing and less sitting.

    Anne wrote on June 21st, 2011
  36. I just found out today that all my nagging of our facilities person is getting me a newly raised desk!!! This is significant since NO ONE else I work with has one and I work for a major corporation (+70k employees).

    How did I do this? Well, when I first asked for it, they thought I wanted to just elevate my keyboard and monitor. Ummm no. Granted, I am an engineer and I do work on my computer a LOT, I do have to look over prints and specifications from time to time, which requires a work surface. To raise the work surface they thought they had to get some specialized support legs to fit our cubicle structure. Ummmm no. I suggested that they just mount my desk higher up on the cubicle wall [duh], trade my current desk chair in for a taller chair in case I need to sit for a few minutes, and save themselves a WHOLE LOT over the crazy equipment they were looking at.

    For the cost of a new chair [~$100-$150] I get what I want and they get an even healthier employee. This is much better than the ~$1500 specialized leg do-hicky they said I needed.

    So start sending those emails to your facilities/healthy person asking for better office equipment – include links to every study that Mark has [and others]. It’s your health…you deserve the best!

    Mike wrote on June 21st, 2011
  37. Most buildings have at least one flight of stairs, when I was feeling antsy I’d do a couple laps up and down a few flights and just that little bit of movement really got my blood flowing and my head feeling clearer.

    Nutritionator wrote on June 21st, 2011
  38. My team is positive that their Manager is insane.

    Sprints between buildings. Chair dips and push-ups in my office. Giant Chef salads loaded with meat for lunch.

    They continue to eat their lean cuisines and spend break time on the internet. Then wonder why they haven’t gotten leaner or fitter.

    John wrote on June 21st, 2011
  39. Where there’s a will, there’s a way: back when I worked in an office in the 1990′s (YES! they actually had offices way back then!) I would just kick off my high heels, move the office chair out of my way and just stand at the desk to do whatever I had to do. Being short of stature (5’2″) it was easier for me to do that than someone who is a lot taller so I didn’t have any trouble working at the desk while standing.

    I had to dress up as I had a high profile job and needed to meet clients/sales people, etc., but my high heels were off every chance I got. And I got out of the office to walk around every chance I got by keeping a pair of flats under the desk. High heels suck.

    I wasn’t in a cubicle, but had a regular office with a small conference table. When it was time to gather ’round the conference table to review plans/specs, I made sure there wasn’t a chair in sight. So we’d all stand around the table and hold our meetings that way. The conference table did have height-adjustable legs so I had the maintenance guys raise the table height some so it would be comfortable for the taller folks (meaning everyone else in the room).

    I’d get some snickers once in a while or someone dragging in their own office chair, which I let them do. But when they got guff from the guys who were standing, they usually gave up the idea of sitting and next time these same people wouldn’t bring a chair!

    Also I found that while standing instead of sitting for a meeting, there’s an feeling of “hey, this might not take so long after all.” Instead of dragging on and on, meetings ended a lot faster — another bonus!

    Point being, sometimes it’s easier than you think to adjust your work space to suit your needs – don’t ask if it’s OK, just do it. Stack your laptop (securely, please!) on top of some books or catalogs, use a small side table that’s higher than your desk and stand at it — that sort of thing. My best friends at work were always the maintenance guys so whenever I needed something moved around or something “adjusted” they were right there to help.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on June 21st, 2011
    • That’s how I just made my standing desk at work. I brought in a few white platforms from Ikea, raised up my keyboard and monitor, and then asked my team if it was okay (and let my cubicle neighbors know I wouldn’t be staring into their spaces). The main attitude is “weird, but whatever floats your boat.” Luckily there are a couple of other folks doing it on my floor, too, which I discovered after setting up my own :)

      It might have bothered people more if I had asked and had to explain at length, rather than just doing it so people could see it’s not really a big deal.

      I also guard a small fileroom where I can hide and do yoga during breaks. :)

      Bess wrote on June 30th, 2011
  40. Thanks for this article. After reading it, I remembered I had a desk exerciser right under my desk that I never used. I just pulled it out and starting using it. And I put in a request to make my desk a standing desk and they are going to have it done for me by the time I get in tomorrow. My life is changed forever!

    Jisun wrote on June 21st, 2011

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