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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 21, 2011

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

By Mark Sisson
134 Comments

A 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!

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134 Comments on "The Art of Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Sedentary Job"

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Ashley North
Ashley North
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Georgette
Georgette
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Nicole
Nicole
5 years 3 months ago

I ordered one immediately after reading this! Pedaler on the way 🙂

peggy
peggy
5 years 3 months ago

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!

impressed
impressed
5 years 3 months ago

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!

peggy
peggy
5 years 3 months ago

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 😀

fritzy
fritzy
5 years 3 months ago

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.

jj
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Crunchy Pickle
5 years 3 months ago

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! 🙂

Primal Pig
Primal Pig
5 years 3 months ago

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.

xsCaveWoman
5 years 3 months ago

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!

Daria
Daria
5 years 3 months ago

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.

salim
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Jim
5 years 3 months ago

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

Linda Sand
Linda Sand
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Daria
Daria
5 years 3 months ago

I do fidget a lot. But mostly because my chair is so uncomfortable.

The Real Food Mama
5 years 3 months ago

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!!

kem
kem
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Hal
5 years 3 months ago
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,… Read more »
Jaybird
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
5 years 3 months ago

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.

cTo
cTo
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Morgan
Morgan
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Amy
Amy
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Yifan Zhang
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Rachel
Rachel
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Daria
Daria
5 years 3 months ago

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. 🙂

Lori
Lori
5 years 3 months ago

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.

xsCaveWoman
5 years 3 months ago

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

rachel
rachel
5 years 3 months ago

Ooh, love the idea of ballet slippers. Is there a certain brand that you like? Where can I buy them?

Daria
Daria
5 years 3 months ago

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. 🙂

Darcy
5 years 3 months ago

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.

ottercat
5 years 3 months ago

[Gets up from reading MDA and goes off to do some errands]

Joe
Joe
5 years 3 months ago

Nice one, Mark! My back pain has basically disappeared since you started these posts on strengthening posture and the effects of sedentary lifestyles.

Darrin
5 years 3 months ago

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!

Anne
Anne
5 years 3 months ago

The portable pedal exercisers sound interesting — can anyone recommend a brand?

Brittany
Brittany
5 years 3 months ago

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? 🙂

WildGrok
WildGrok
5 years 3 months ago

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
WildGrok
5 years 3 months ago

I meant “sneak”

Peggy The Primal Parent
5 years 3 months ago

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.

cTo
cTo
5 years 3 months ago

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 😉

tess
tess
5 years 3 months ago

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…?

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
shannon
shannon
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Faith
Faith
5 years 3 months ago

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.

knifegill
knifegill
5 years 3 months ago

Providence Hospital?

Nikkicole
Nikkicole
5 years 3 months ago

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.

mike
5 years 3 months ago

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.

knifegill
knifegill
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 3 months ago

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.

mike
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Maggie
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Daria
Daria
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

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…

Primal Palate
Primal Palate
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

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.

cTo
cTo
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Timothy
5 years 3 months ago

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.

knifegill
knifegill
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Lene
Lene
5 years 3 months ago

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”

Mike McMillan
5 years 3 months ago
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.… Read more »
IcarianVX
IcarianVX
5 years 3 months ago

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. 🙂

rose
rose
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Susan Alexander
5 years 3 months ago

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. 🙂

Peter@themensdomain
5 years 3 months ago

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!

Belinda
Belinda
5 years 3 months ago

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.

kerrybonnie
5 years 3 months ago

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.

Anne
5 years 3 months ago

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.

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Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Nutritionator
5 years 3 months ago

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.

John
John
5 years 3 months ago

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.

PrimalGrandma
PrimalGrandma
5 years 3 months ago
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… Read more »
Bess
Bess
5 years 2 months ago
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… Read more »
Jisun
Jisun
5 years 3 months ago

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!

Tom
5 years 3 months ago

Great post.

Since I have a lot of free time right now I’m playing a decent amount of video games. After reading this post and the post about sitting, I’ve been playing my games while standing.

Mike H
Mike H
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve been working out in my cubicle for years. Easy fast and effective. Pushups, pistol squats, poses, balance activities etc and stretching. You can get effective results in 5 minutes or 15.

Grace
Grace
5 years 3 months ago
We were just talking at the office today, that it would be cool to have standing workstations with a treadmill. I work in a high-stress technical support job all day and tied to a phone in a cubicle. I consider myself lucky if I get my two 15 minute breaks a day, though I do try to walk as far as I can for my 1 hr. lunch. Unfortunately, not getting as much sunshine as I need, since I work in one of those “hermetically sealed” skyscrapers. When the weather is cooler, I walk outside for lunch, but with 100+… Read more »
Cass
Cass
5 years 3 months ago
My job is about 2/3 standing/walking and 1/3 sitting and staring at the computer. I try to spice it up a little, though (it would be more sitting if I sat at my lab bench, but I stand when working unless I need to write a lot; then it’s really awkward to bend that way for a long time). My lab bench is around the right height for angled pushups and arm dips, as is the bench in the dark room, and I often have whole armadas of 5 minute incubations, so I intersperse them with quick little spurts of… Read more »
fritzy
fritzy
5 years 3 months ago

I feel so incredibly lucky to not only have a job I love as an occupational therapist but to spend most of my day moving like Grok; walking, stooping, kneeling, squating, lifting. We also have standing workstations. The only time I sit is typically at lunch.

I used to work in an outpatient hand therapy clinic where I sat all day–my back hurt so much from that work. Ironic considering that I perform “back-breaking work” now and rarely have back pain. I’ll never go back to sitting.

Marc
Marc
5 years 3 months ago

So we’re supposed to stand at home too?

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Daniel
Daniel
5 years 3 months ago
I used to have back ache from sitting at a desk and it culminated in me putting my back out last year and for a few weeks I couldnt sit down. I built my keyboard and monitor up at work on boxes and books so I could stand and my back healed nicely. Ever since I’ve kept it that way and my back has not ached since. Everyone thinks im odd for standing up because nobody else does it, but who cares when I feel so much better for it. Its so easy to remain seated all day in an… Read more »
Nick Lo
5 years 3 months ago

I work for myself so stand, squat, kneel as I feel the need. Even so I still don’t feel like I get to move enough as I should. I wonder perhaps if my next step should be one of these fairly dorky looking Connect-a-desk laptop holders:

http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/bags/a988/

If anyone has used them I’d be interested to hear any feedback.

Lisa Tullius
5 years 2 months ago

check out the StandnSit available at standingoodhealth.com

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