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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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March 29 2011

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

By Mark Sisson
109 Comments

Even 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. 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!

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109 thoughts on “16 Tips for Desk Jockeys: What to Do About Sitting All Day”

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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

  2. 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…

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

    2. 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 😉

  6. 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.

  7. 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!!

  8. 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!

  9. I’m curious what your thoughts on replacing a chair with an exercise ball are?

    1. Exercise balls have limited range of motion. Something that allows shifting such as moving the feet into different places is what ‘movement friendly’ is all about kneeling chairs and exercise balls do offer a better posture but you also get stuck. Check out my stuff here where I’ve got tools that have both advantages.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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).

    1. 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. 🙂

    2. 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. 🙂

  11. 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!

  12. Hey Mark!

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

    Great post!

    1. 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!!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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! 🙂

    1. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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)

  18. 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…

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  23. 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!!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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 🙂

  27. 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).

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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

  37. So many options to choose from. I think the exercises and the standing desk are the most bang for your buck.

    Great point on the evolution. We are not designed to sit all day. We are designed to walk a lot of miles a day. Another reason why exercise is important 🙂

  38. I love my stand up desk and work area! Mark you should do a contest….im just curious to see what everyone else has got goin on in the office.

  39. Amazing tips, I will def be trying some of these. I work from home and even though I exercise often, I still worry about my back and my hands from sitting and typing for so many hours a week.

  40. Great article! I recommend you all take a look at Workrave, http://www.workrave.org/, that helps you take micro pauses and longer pauses. It has some instructions for stretching muscles and you can set pause intervals. It has helped much since I started using it! It’s free and works both on MS Windows and GNU/Linux!

  41. As a grad student trying to finish my program early I spend about 12 hours a day (yes, every day of the week) researching and writing. I can easily work straight through without taking breaks. Late last year I figured someone out there has devised an exercise program for office workers that gets them moving at scheduled times during the day. I found one program called DeskActive. It won’t make you physically fit or even get your heart rate up, but it does force you to take a break and move around a bit.

  42. I have at work a standing workstation (makeshift) done with old monitor stands. I alternate standing and sitting in my stability ball. Very happy with the setup. When I sit on the ball I move down the keyboard and mouse to the desk and tilt the LCD, when I stand I move keyboard and mouse to the monitor stands, and tilt up the LCD.
    If you do not have monitor stands, old books will work fine

  43. setup your watch alarm to to go on every 30 minutes while you are working and every minutes , watch your posture and correct it. if possible get up and do some walking. i walk down 30 stories down everyday first thing in the morning and take a 10 min walk between lunch and breakfast. I skip lunch go find a close by park and play hack the sack ball for 30-45 min barefoot.then do sprints at the lights on the way back to office..it feels so awsome. you can even do squat every 10-15 min pretendenting you are taking something from floor underneath your desk..options are limitless, it is our brain making execuses and getting lazy from sitting.

  44. Thanks for the tip. I will be graduating law school and working as a lawyer this summer so there will be many long days at a desk.

  45. The Gokhale method book has helped me immensely. I was skeptical about being able to learn good posture from a book, but it is a very good book, and i did.

    I sit on the floor at work from time to time, which seems healthier than sitting on a chair. After all, traditional people do sit; they just sit on the ground.

  46. I sit on a yoga ball which helps- Im able to roll around on it and stretch and strengthen while I sit on my butt. I also get up and move around regularly.

  47. My biggest challenge is that I am a programmer. By definition, this means if I am not sitting in my chair then I am not being productive.

    I already try to get up and move around often, and the 4-8 times per day that I do so is often twice as much as any of my co-workers.

    What I really need is a new profession, but don’t have the time to start over in terms of income.

  48. “…seven to eight hours a day.”

    Man, I wish… Try 12-14. It’s killing me, physically and spiritually. I don’t know if I can even justify it anymore by saying “At least I have a job…”

    Thanks for the pointers, there’s some good ones to break up the day.

  49. I switched from sitting on a ball to standing at my desk a few weeks ago. The first week was killer on my feet as I got into the habit, but that eased up.

    I now find that I naturally move around my space a lot more since I don’t have to get up first (never thought that was such a big deal). What’s more, I’m losing a taste for sitting in other contexts as well, like at mealtimes. Thanks for the links and advice!

  50. You have inspired me – I just put a few boxes and books under my laptop and I’m typing this standing up. Working at home is nice that way.

  51. Great ideas! I know on the few occasions that I have to stand for 8 hours, my legs and back are killing me by the end of the day.

  52. I have had great results by substituting an exercise ball for a desk chair. Mine is a 60mm ball. I set the firmness as needed to replicate chair height, and basically exercise my abs, back, shoulders and legs every time I’m at my computer. If listening to music, I can bop right along with it. This has totally replaced all other forms of ab workout in my life–I find no need for crunches, etc, by exercising while at work.

  53. Great post! I sit on an exercise ball at my desk. I highly, highly recommend it. I would NEVER go back to a regular desk chair. The ball requires an active core and naturally encourages good posture.

  54. At work I sit on a balance ball chair by Gaiam. Check it out on their website http://www.gaiam.com It has made a big difference in how I feel – no more slumping so no more sore neck and shoulders. I highly recommend it.

  55. I switched my home laptop to a standing desk a month ago. Standing still on the floor bothered my back after awhile, so I put a pillowcase filled with tiny stones underneath my feet, and I walk in place on it periodically to move my spine. According to Chinese medicine, walking on a bumpy surface is supposed to lower blood pressure, too.

  56. sitting on an exercise ball rather a desk chair really helps me remember to keep moving and makes me aware of my posture and core.

  57. I find it ironic that the Primal thing is all about questioning conventional wisdom with diet, exercise, etc. Yet when it comes to sitting everyone freaks. Please explain how something as benign as sitting can cause all these problems. Stop freaking out.

    I had crippling back pain about 5 years ago(while doing a lot of core exercises, yoga,etc) and I bought into the posture/sitting theory of back pain. It was only when I realized that the pain and other muscle & ligament tightness was a result of repressing emotions, and not sitting for long periods(I sit all day doing software development), that I actually got better. I felt better and was pain free and more flexible than I had ever been in my life. All this while sitting for 8-10 hours per day and no stretching…i even dropped the yoga and I was still great.

    I don’t know if I have a point (or care to try and make one) but I just want to offer another view on this since this article it full of conventional wisdom and must be questioned. Also, having gone through horrendous chronic back pain (and healed myself) I understand how much it sucks to hurt and to have to be sitting all day.

    The key is good blood flow and I believe that starts from within yourself with emotional health.

    I hope this made some sense…anyway, after talking smack about this article I’m gonna get up and do a few pull ups!

    For any inquisitive minds, check out the work of Dr. John Sarno. I followed his advice (via a book) and that is what taught me how to get rid of my pain…not a standing workstation or stretching.

  58. This is excellent. I am one of those desk jockeys and I have had more than my fair share of problems because of it. Exercising has actually created problems for me after being active my whole life and now being sedentary so much. Tight hips and rolled shoulders affecting my brachial plexus are my big issues. I have never found anything to release the front of my pelvis and hips like #1. I’ve already started using it. Thanks Mark!

  59. I build metal frames around my large LCD monitors. I suspend them by chains above an ottoman. I work laying on my back on the ottoman. I am never sitting up to work again. You people treat the symptoms. TREAT THE CAUSE.

  60. Mark, these are absolutely phenomenal tips and I think you wrote them just for me!

    Eight to ten hours a day at my desk is way too much for my back and my typing and my mouse hand! I’m going to be adding these to my daily routine, on top of what I already do in my ‘primal’ workout. Thanks again.

  61. Good tips… I don’t really have aches or pains, but sitting for 10+ hours a day in my home office is driving me nuts.

    Incidentally, I had carpal tunnel until I stopped eating gluten. Pain just went away, and hasn’t returned (and I do more computer work now than I did 6 years ago when I went gluten-free).

  62. Just a little thing…while I have a printer in my office, I send print jobs to the most distant printer.

    1. That’s the type of thing I was going to suggest – walk to the furthest restroom. Fill up your water bottle at the most distant water cooler… anything to force a little more movement.

      I’m also a fan of the “walk and talk.” If you’re having a 1:1 conversation with someone, rather than holing up in a conference room, if they’re willing, go for a walk while you talk.

      I will also go for walks during conference calls if I can review the agenda and realize I won’t need to be in front of my computer (and if I’ll be doing more listening than talking). I just throw on my headset and put the cell phone on mute and go for a stroll. I find it also reduces my stress and annoyance levels with some of the calls!

  63. I do most of my work from home, but have a horrible standing position as well as when I’m sitting, which would be okay if I changed it up from time to time or just did some others stuff in between…Oh well, lots more work to do, better get started on improving and such…

    Thanx for the advice…

    Love, Jules

  64. Last September when our office moved, I decided that I was not going to take the elevator to my 3rd floor cube and started taking the stairs. I skipped a step and rose all the way up onto my toe. Three months ago I decided to turn my small bladder curse into a benefit and I “do the stairs” after each rest room visit. By the end of the day I’ve had a decent leg workout!

  65. When I read this, I wished the new office chairs without backsupport would have been mentioned, like the Backapp:

    http://backapp.se/en/content1c/114/how-back-app-works/

    Instead of resting the back, you train it.

    It has really helped me to get a stronger back plus I don’t have back pain in this type of chair!

    Also, I would like to mention the importance of proper eyewear in front of a computer. Many people seem to take this lightly, but what a difference it makes to have special lenses for the correct distance to the monitor!

    Thank you, I will try the exercises!

  66. Great post. I second the recommendation on the Geek Desk for easily switching between sitting and standing. But I am surprised you did not mention a saddle chair. It is nearly impossible to hunch your shoulders forward im a saddle chair, and they allow for a “neutral” spine where the hip flexors are lengthened.

    It takes a little adjustment time, though less than making a full switch to standing. Plus, your core strength and balance are continually being improved. There are several good saddle chairs out there, though people in an office still must deal with the unusual looks…

  67. I have a box under my desk which I can lean or rest my legs and feet on. I can also push against it (wall behind it) and do leg exercise while sitting.
    I also do butt exercise while sitting.
    Sometimes I turn the chair around and kneel on it reaching over the back to the keyboard to type.

    Also, you can buy blocks to raise your table making you feel like a little kid =P
    It forces you to straighten your back because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see.
    I keep my table on blocks and have a chair I can adjust the height. I alternate between heights.

  68. I deliver mail from my own vehicle. I have noticed my ankles getting swollen and my legs feel just very uncomfortable. Plus I think my back is getting it from all of the reaching I have to do to get the mail in the box. So, I am going to try to stretch everything out more and order the backsit. I hope this helps. Not sure why my ankles are swelling. P.S. Ask your carrier if your box is the right height for them. It is very difficult when I have to reach down.

  69. When I read the post about a standing workingdesk and now this post I’m a bit puzzled. The reason for this is that in Denmark (where I live) it’s enforced by law that if you have to be behind a desk for more then 2 hours a day you have to have a desk that can work both for sitting and standing.
    Besides that I’m a physiotherapist working with OSH (Occupational Safety and Health) mostly in offices.

    A few tips:
    – Your underarm should be rested on the desk with you shoulders relaxed.
    – The top of your screen should be at the same height as your eyes and the screen should be around 50cm away from you (if you stretch out your arm you should be able to reach it)
    – Use your keyboard way more than the mouse. I possible go for a trackball or “the red thing on IBM laptops” instead of a regular mouse.
    – During your day try to, as much as possible, to change your position. 1000 bad sedantary positions during the day are better the 1 “good”.
    – Stand up during “rutine” work and sit down when concentration (this is evolutionary wired. When we have to concentrate we usually sit down)

    I have a ton of more tips and a link of links. The only problem is that it’s all in Danish! 🙂

  70. Instead of a mouse I use an old pen tablet. It takes a lot of getting used to, but now I don’t notice it apart from sometimes readjusting the pad to the right angle.

    There were some stories of people overcoming their mouse-induced RSI with tablets, but I just found my old one in a cupboard and decided “why not?”

    People have used writing instruments like pens for centuries and it seems to suit the anatomy of the hand a lot better than mice, at least that was the theory?

    My other trick is wearing ‘plus lens’ reading glasses and an eye-patch to simulate far sight when looking at a computer screen.

    There’s a lot of people promoting natural myopia prevention using this method. My understanding is the plus lens bends the light as though it is from further away and the eye patch stops my focus from subconsciously converging on a near point (And also lets me rest one eye at a time). The eyepatch might be superfluous, but I like to look as eccentric as possible.

    I don’t know how controversial it is, but my eyesight is slightly sharper using this method so for now I am sticking with it.

    Now, I must add balancing on one leg to my eyepatch and glasses…

  71. Great tips! I get my daily rounds of exercise doing the school run four times a day – 40 mins each way – brisk walking. The rest of the time I am sitting, typing and snacking!! Heartily advise regular walking!!

  72. I was suggested this website through my cousin. I am now not positive whether this submit is written by him as no one else recognise such specified about my difficulty. You are amazing! Thanks!

  73. I followed this link from Lesson #7 that was sent out today. I have an exercise ball chair. What is the concensus on those? Helpful, or not? Thanks!

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  75. Fabulous article & suggestions: 2 days using my new Stand up Desk, and I’m loving it! My hips always hurt from sitting too much and my posture not so good. My standing posture is great, & a party bonus is that standing keeps me much more alert,even after lunch…I can alternate with sitting at my old desk if I feel the need, but so far, standing Rocks!

  76. My husband drives a rig, so he can’t stand up and walk around most of the time.
    But, he does take his own primal food and parks at the farthest space from the truck stop when he pulls in for the night. Whenever he can, he gets out and moves around.

  77. Seriously in love with my LifeSpan treadmill desk. It’s quiet, huge workspace etc… The desk is ergonomically designed with height adjustments. Even if I’m not moving, I’m standing in a perfect postural position. I really don’t sit down anymore, ever!

  78. nice article, I took note of the piece about the glutes as it is something I need to work on, as by my sports massager tell me, I have some back pain and I have been told that is I need to strengthen my glutes. He gives out to me if I don’t stretch enough!

    thanks

  79. I use my FitDesk everyday. Tested my step count without it and it dropped from 11-14k steps per day down to 3-5K!

  80. Standing on one leg… what do you do with your other leg? Just bend your knee so your foot’s hanging out behind you? I’m intrigued!

  81. My personal problem is that with my mouse on my right and my computer slightly to the right of my general direction both my right arm is seemingly more fat retaining then my left and it seems like my face is (unnoticeably) different looking on one side then the other. I try to flip everything but I subconsciously revert to my usual position? If you have any advice you can send it to my facebook listed as my website because I don’t check my email.