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How to move more and sit less, even when you work at a desk all day

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 19 June 2014
Hits: 3377

One of the most frustrating things I see as a Personal Trainer is a client who tells me they have no time to exercise. I then ask them what have they been doing all day and they inform me they have been at work behind the computer and when they get home are too tired to do anything so sit on the couch and watch TV. When we have used a pedometer to track how many steps they have taken some are lucky to have hit 2000 by the end of the day! Which is why the latest saying "Sitting Has Become The New Smoking" is quite real. Whether your goal is to lose weight, add muscle, get fit or simply feel good you really need to be hitting a target of 15,000 - 20,000 steps a day. In this article I will show what happens when you sit down too much and also how you can use some simple tricks, review your workstation set up and even new technology to help inspire you to move more.

What happens to your body when you’re sitting down?

Sitting for too long apart from all the physical problems of creating tight hips, hamstrings, shoulders and developing neck and back pain sitting also plays havoc with your metabolism. Sitting for too long slows down the body’s metabolism and the way the enzyme lipoprotein lipase breaks down our fat reserves. And as metabolism goes down your blood glucose levels and blood pressure go up! Which is not good news for your health.Small amounts of regular activity, even just standing and moving around, throughout the day is enough to bring the increased levels back down. And those small amounts of activity add up – scientists have suggested that 30 minutes of light activity in two or three-minute bursts could be just as effective as a half-hour block of exercise. But without that activity, blood sugar levels and blood pressure keep creeping up, steadily damaging the inside of the arteries and raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So if you are wanting to lose weight and think that going to the gym for 30 minutes 2-3 times per week is enough and you spend the rest of your time sitting on your butt, you need to think again.

Sitting Ruins Your Posture

In addition to the problems of blood pressure, diabetes etc for most people, prolonged sitting will cause all or some of the following:
Tight hip flexors, hamstrings, calf muscles, tightness through the external hip rotator muscles, which can lead to restricted movement at the hip joint, reduced extension through the lower back, causing stiffness stiffness in the mid (thoracic) spine tight and hunched shoulders with weak lower shoulder muscles tight and weak muscles at the back of the shoulder ‘poked chin’ posture and muscle imbalances in the neck and upper shoulders The better the posture one can maintain during the day, the less likely it is that the above areas will become problematic. Watch the video below to see what exercises, stretches and techniques we use for alleviating tight neck and shoulder stiffness.

On the flip side of this, the older the person and the more time spent sitting down over the years, the more ingrained these problems will be. We see this all to often with some of the Golf Players coming in as part of our Golf Performance Program and they suffer all types of neck, back and shoulder problems, not to mention the fact that it is near impossible to play better with a terrible posture. Read this article on Golf Posture. The good news is that it is never too late to reverse this posture but one of the very first things they must do is to find a way to move more throughout the day and get off the chair. Make sure you watch our video on the Office Workout to see how you can create a workout in your office within 5 minutes using only a swissball.

Make Sure You Set Your Workstation Up Correctly

If you have a job that forces you to sit for a long time, and to be honest most of our clients are exactly like this. It is absolutely essential that you set your workstation up correctly in order to prevent many of the unwanted injury or chronic pain conditions created from poor posture. You can check out more information about workstation set up here and download a very easy to read PDF Document. I have included the main points along with a few of the pictures of set up here so you can get started straight away. I highly reccommend reading the book "Sitting On The Job" by Scott Dunkin as he gives some great insight and ideas as to how to create a healthy workplace. This is one of the things we cover in our Small Business Health Program where we provide Group Training to small businesses in the Mitcham, Vermont and Wantirna areas.


Step 1:

  1. Adjust your chair so your wrists are level with the keyboard when typing.
  2. A footrest will be needed if your feet cannot touch the ground after adjusting your chair

Step 2:

  1. Adjust your back rest so that it is positioned in the curve of your lower back
  2. Check the angle of your back rest it should be 90 -95 degrees
  3. Check the angle of your seat it should be 90-95 degrees
  4. Check the space between your chair and backs of your knees it should be no more than 2 to 3 finger spaces.

Step 3:

  1. Position mouse to prevent overreaching. It should be as close to the keyboard as possible.
  2. Check the angle of your elbows when using the keyboard and mouse. They should be at 90 degrees andunder your shoulders.
  3. Check the angle of your wristswhen using the keyboard and mouse. They should be straight, not bending in any direction.
  4. The letter section of the keyboard must be centred infront of your body

Step 4:

  1. The top of the monitor should be at approximately eye level.The monitor should be approximately one arm’s length away.
  2. Adjust for personal comfort. You should be able to read text without having to lean forwards.
  3. Your monitor should be positioned at right angles to light sources to prevent glare and avoid placing it directly in front or facing a window
  4. The monitor must be centred in front of your body

Step 5:

  1. Ensure there is enough space under your desk to move your legs freely and ensure there are no obstructions preventing you moving as close to your desk as possible.

There you have it, the complete Workstation Set Up. Dont forget to check out the OFFICE WORKOUT which is a series of easy to do stretches and exercises to improve your Posture and alleviate sore shoulders neck etc. 

Using a Pedometer Or A Fitbit May Motivate You to Sit Less

In a new study, researchers gave pedometers to middle -aged adults, who wore them daily for 12 weeks while also receiving twice-weekly emails containing nutritional advice and exercise tips. This simple action led to a significant decrease
in sitting time, and a significant increase in physical activity, among the participants, who lost an average of 1kg each. The fact that the pedometer seemed to motivate its wearer to move around more instead of sitting is a huge win, and one that could lead to drastic health improvements. As one of the study’s authors noted: "Even if somebody works out 30 minutes a day, the fact that they're sitting and not moving for long periods of time for the rest of the day is in
and of itself detrimental to their health and wellbeing, physiologically.”
In fact, according to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the more time you spend sitting down, the greater your risk of dying from all causes.

Melissa has recently been wearing a FITBIT wriststrap. This is a small device that clips on your clothes and tracks your steps. It can also monitor how much sleep you get at night. The Fitbit can easily synch up with your computer or smart phone so you can easily track your data and progress. I highly reccommend trying one of these out as many people are kept accountable by their results, or more to the point, the lack of results!

I like to take periodic breaks every 10-15 minutes when working on the computer and do some squats or lunges and maybe some stretches before getting back into it. I found this to help prevent my neck, shoulders and hips from tightening up. Plus my energy is renewed and I tend to get more done. So now that the winter has hit, make sure you become more active than ever by just moving around. Get a pedometer or Fitbit and start taking more steps each day and you will be rewarded. If your goal is to lose weight, get fit, strenghthen or tone up it is crucial you find a way to get incidental movement throughout the day. You must find a way to MOVE MORE & SIT LESS!

If you are a Small Business owner or a manager of your company, located in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and feel this information is just what your business needs make sure you check out our Small Business Health Program? Click here to find out more