Workplace Wellness – How to Respect your Body’s Natural Demand for Movement

On average, Canadians sit for more than 10 hours per day, every day. Think about your typical day for a minute. We wake up, sit in traffic on our way to work, sit at the office, sit in traffic on our way back from work, and sit at home to have dinner and then watch Game of Thrones!

Our bodies aren’t built to sit so much. They’re naturally built to move and regularly change position. Even though our society has created a sense of normalcy around sitting, it’s actually slowly killing us. 

Sitting is the new smoking

We’ve all heard the adage, “sitting is the new smoking,” but we now have real facts and data to support this claim. By sitting for more than six hours a day, you have a 90% increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes; a 64% increased risk of developing heart disease; your blood flow is restricted; and you have an increased risk of neck, back and shoulder pain. Even sitting for more than one hour at a time leads to your leg muscles basically shutting down, which increase your blood pressure and reduces your metabolism (read weight gain).

Now that we made it clear that sitting all day is a terrible idea, let’s take a look at standing. Standing all day can cause lower back, knee and foot pain. If sitting and standing all day are both bad for us, how might we improve our chances of staying healthy as we work at our desks?

The wellness at work recipe

The recipe for wellness at work is actually quite simple – a mixture of sitting and standing, with some movement peppered throughout your day. Research shows that by mixing your sitting and standing time throughout the day, you improve your concentration levels; productivity goes up by 25-50%; your mood and energy levels spike; it reduces back pain; and your metabolism goes up while toning your muscles. 

If you’re like me, you can start with a DIY wellness setup that consists of one fixed-height standing desk built out of an IKEA desk on top of old car tires and one fixed-height sitting desk. That’s actually how I started my career, by alternating from one desk to the other throughout my work days! If your budget allows for it, I suggest opting for a desk that allows you to do both; sit or stand all with the help of a button that remembers your ergonomic heights. 

Beginners’ guide to using a sit-stand desk

I immediately fell in love with working standing and opted to do so for 3-4 hours at a time. Make sure that you don’t make the same rookie mistake that I did. Remember, the key is to alternate and keep moving throughout the day. 

If you’re new to using a sit-stand desk, I recommend starting with a 10/30 split. This means standing for 10 minutes, then sitting for 30, and repeating. This will allow your body to get used to working standing. You can then gradually increase the time you spend standing while keeping your sitting time capped off at 30 minutes, hence increasing your standing-to-sitting ratio. 

Small changes have big lasting impacts

Making a few small changes to your daily routine can have positive and lasting effects to your mental and physical health, as well as your job performance. Whatever your work situation is, make sure respect your body’s natural demand for movement and change.

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