Have you been busy at work and completely lost track of how long it had been since you stood up from your desk? Most people have—we’re all busier than ever, and it’s easy to just forget to move when you’re trying to be productive. As we’ve been hearing a lot over the last several years, sitting more than six hours a day can be disastrous for your health. Not only has it been linked to higher rates of heart disease and mortality, it affects everything from your focus to your organs, to your back. If you’re one of the more than one million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, you might want to check with your doctor to see if sitting too much could be a factor. Disk damage and back and neck pain are very common among desk-dwellers.
Despite all the dire warnings against sitting too much, it’s surprisingly difficult to take adequate breaks at the office. However, which can lead to us sitting far more than we should. If you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to move more at work, try these tips to help offset the harm your office chair is doing.
Set break alarms—and don’t ignore them!
Our smartphones can be a great tool for better health—if they’re used properly. Set a schedule for your breaks—and stick to it. Setting alarms throughout the day to remind you to take a break, whether that means a just a quick lap around the office, or around the block. Just be sure you don’t treat your break alarms like your morning alarm—snoozing defeats the whole point!
Try a non-standard desk
The benefits of standing desks, under-desk elliptical, and exercise balls as chairs haven’t been proven, but some people find they help with inactivity. Ideally, you should choose an option that lets you alternate sitting and standing (such as an adjustable standing desk), since standing all day isn’t much better for you than sitting.
Get up more than you feel like
It’s not great for concentration to get up all the time, but it’s ideal for you to alternate between sitting and standing. If that isn’t an option for you, you should be getting up about once every hour and walking for five minutes. This may feel like too much at first. But if you’re used to sitting for long periods of time, it will just take a short adjustment period.
Drink more water
It’s a sneaky way to get you up and moving. Drinking more water will make you have to get up and go to the bathroom more often. As a bonus, staying properly hydrated is great for your overall health. Having trouble remembering to drink up? Your break alarms can help with that too. Aim for about 64 ounces a day (8 glasses).
Don’t do the desk lunch
Almost everyone has been so busy that they have taken lunch at their desks at least once. It’s time to stop, whether you’re a one-time desk luncher or a repeat offender. If it’s a nice day, take your lunch outside. On days when the weather isn’t cooperating, at least take a few laps around the building. This can actually mean you enjoy your lunch break.
Don’t hit “send”
Is your colleague’s desk all the way across the office? Good. Unless something needs to be put in writing, just walk over and deliver the message in person. You’ll communicate more effectively, and get a few more steps in during the day.
Try a fitness tracker
Nothing like a goal to get you motivated. Fitness trackers are helpful for increasing your awareness about your activity levels. It can be fun to push and challenge yourself to get more steps and push past your goal. You can even compete with friends and colleagues!
Get up and Go!
Overall, working in an office is a fairly low-risk job: accidents are rare. However, with the sobering effects on mortality rates from sitting all day, the office just might be the death of you—if you let it. Fortunately, it’s very easy to implement these simple changes and live a healthier life in and out of the office. Don’t feel like you need to run a 5k at lunch. Just get up from the chair and head to the kitchen for a glass of water—it’s that easy.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.