5 Strategies to Avoid Dying in Your Office Chair

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As many of you know, I recently switched from personal training (which is by and large one of the most active career fields in existence assuming you’re good and not just sitting at the smoothie bar) to a primarily seated job working in digital media. I’m thoroughly excited about the opportunities that it presents down the road.

I’ve been asked numerous times about whether or not I’m enjoying the switch and my answer is an overwhelming yes, with one exception:

Sitting at a desk drives me crazy. 

Coming from someone that has never been chained to a desk during the day, staying in the seated position in front of a computer screen for hours on end has proven to be extremely difficult. Before, I would be on my computer for a few hours in the morning, active all day, and then resurface by my screen after work. The activity of personal training provided me with a little break in my day.

Now, I’m seated for the greater part of 7 hours straight with breaks to hit the gym, get lunch, and amble around the interesting town of Boulder. This likely isn’t far off from the daily in’s and out’s of many Americans. We’re largely a sedentary culture that prefers search fields to soccer ones. This doesn’t come without repercussions. Sitting is again and again identified as one of the biggest causes for heart disease and other preventable illnesses.

“Based on all this data, the researchers calculated that limiting the time Americans spend sitting to three hours or fewer each day would increase the life expectancy of the U.S. population by 2 years.”

“Sit less and you’ll live longer – it’s really that simple.”

  • Source: Me and my infinite wisdom

With that being said, the simple solution is to get your butt out of a chair and get more activity in your day. As is often the case, what sounds relatively simple can be a pain to put into practice. Since I’ve been sitting quite a bit recently, I’ve being utilizing these five strategies to get more activity in my day. Go ahead and read through them and then add your own at the end.

Strategy #1: Work For An Allotted Time – Then Get Up

One of the most practical tips to save yourself from rotting in a chair is rather simple – get up. While your boss may not take a liking to you strolling around the office, getting out of your chair and moving around is the simplest (and most obvious) way to get more activity in throughout the day.

Upper management not a fan of taking breaks? Here’s your solution.

Set a timer on your computer at work (try Online-Stopwatch for starters). Start the timer and work for an allotted amount of time. I opt for somewhere in the range of 45 minutes because I feel like I can crank out some solid work in that time without getting too distracted or seeing my mouse creep up to the Facebook shortcut.

(Note: This only works if you actually do work for the entire 45 minutes.)

When the timer goes off, step away from the desk. For me, it doesn’t matter where I am in a stack of work. I walk away when the timer hits 45 simply because I know that it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in a pile of publishers and not leave my desk again for another two hours.

Here’s the hardest part – get out of the office if possible.

A little sunshine in your life not only helps to give your skin a refreshing glow; it also helps to keep you energized. Whether you work in the middle of the city or out in the sticks, take 10 minutes for a short, brisk walk around your block. Allow your mind to wander and avoid thinking about work. You’ll feel more energized when you get back to your desk – guaranteed.

Strategy #2: Keep a Lacrosse Ball at Your Desk

One of the worst aspects of sitting in front of a computer all day is the typing that wreaks havoc on your forearms and shoulders. Constantly hunching forward over your computer can lead to a slumped forward head and shoulders meaning upper and lower back pain when you’re moving around outside of the confines of your desk. Constantly tapping on your keyboard puts your wrists in an extended position tightening your forearm extensors and potentially causing elbow and shoulder pain down the road as well.

Your solution: a lacrosse ball.

lacrosse ball

Roughly two dollars can save you a hell of a lot of trouble down the road.

Here’s your game plan: Keep the lacrosse ball by your desk where you can grab it at a moments notice. Perform some self-myofascial release (tricky name for massage) on these three areas:

  • Upper traps – these get especially tight as we get stressed out throughout the day
  • Forearms – focus on hitting the outside of your forearm just below the elbow
  • Feet – slide your shoes off (make sure you’re wearing matching socks) and run the ball underneath the arch of your foot. For someone wearing dress shoes or heels all day, this can be heaven.

Tackle these areas whenever you’re feeling especially pensive and need to ponder some important ideas or whenever you’re reading an article and don’t need to utilize the mouse or keyboard for a little while. Personally, I like to run through a few of them when I’m reading during lunch. It relieves some stress as well as slows down my eating and helps me digest my food better.

Strategy #3: Drink Plenty of Water

Keep a bottle of water by your desk and guzzle away. This serves two purposes:

  1. It helps to keep you hydrated most importantly. Your body is predominantly made of water. Having a shortage prevents things (your brain for instance) from functioning optimally. It also helps give you energy throughout the day.
  2. There’s no better reason to get up from your desk than to hit the bathroom. Guzzle one bottle of water every hour and a half and you’ll be no stranger to the bathroom. It’ll give you a reason to get up from your desk without feeling like you’re avoiding work. That’s what we’re shooting for right? More activity?

You can use a water tracker to make sure you’re taking in enough or you can invest in one of these giant water bottles that tracks how quickly you’re actually drinking water. Whatever the case, aim for 60-80 ounces a day. Chances are, that’s a far cry from what you’re downing now. If you’re consuming a lot of soda and coffee, up your dosage.

Strategy #4: Take Phone Calls and Meetings Standing Up

When I’m sitting all day and then head to a meeting, the last thing I want to do is take a seat while I listen to someone else talk about work. A simple solution is to stand. In fact, you could adopt the policy of Google where there aren’t any chairs in the meeting rooms because meetings are too long if employees want to sit down.

If it’s not going to be a complete disruption of the work environment, opt to take a stand at the back of the room. You’ll be able to stretch your legs and get a little more activity in than your cheek-squishing counterparts.

Take the same approach to telephone calls. To remind myself to stand up during the day, I’ve taken to the notion that phone calls should be answered standing up. This gives me a simple reminder and cue to get more activity in throughout the day.

If your office gives you complete freedom, you could even look into getting a standing desk although that’s a bit of an extreme measure for the workplace in my opinion.

Strategy #5: Break Up Your Day

The biggest strategy that I’ve been utilizing to keep myself active and prevent myself from going absolutely insane is extremely simple yet hard to actually put into practice. I’ve been breaking up my day very frequently into two workable chunks separated by a long break (when I usually hit the gym).

Each separate chunk is dedicated to specific tasks so I know exactly what I need to focus on and get done during that 3.5 hour block of time before I hit the gym or go out for lunch. When I take a break, I do just that. I don’t think about work while I’m at the gym. I block everything out and try to just enjoy my time outside of the office space.

This becomes quite challenging if your day is full of meetings and telephone conference calls. It becomes a bit harder to step out when your schedule is dictated by others. The easiest thing that I’ve found to do in that scenario is to schedule it in your calendar just like every other meeting. Rather than simply putting it on the back burner when the time comes, set an alarm that signifies it’s time to hit the gym. It’s harder to avoid when it’s a set time in your schedule.

The moral of the story is to move more and sit less. With that being said, those are just five strategies that have been working for me.

Time to sound off in the comments. Let me know what you do to prevent yourself from going crazy in a desk. I want to hear it!

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