Seven years ago I made a career change that altered my life from an organically active lifestyle to a naturally sedentary one. Moving from a job as a college professor living in a major Asian city where I didn’t own a car to a desk job in the suburbs of Atlanta meant a pretty drastic lifestyle change. All of a sudden health problems popped up that hadn’t been an issue with my previous lifestyle – back pain, nerve problems, weight gain. Since the majority of my day was spent sitting with limited time to workout, I began looking for ways to make my workday more active.
Take the long way – one change I made was to take documents to other departments one at a time rather than waiting until I had a bundle to walk over. And instead of going the most direct route, I’d try to do a lap around the interior of our building each time. In a relatively small office this doesn’t take much time away from my desk, but does serve as a way to incorporate a little more movement during the course of the day. Also, when I have a question for someone in the office, I usually try to stop by in person when possible rather than using the phone or email. Obviously, don’t take advantage of this to the point that it negatively impacts productivity, but adding some little changes like this can add up over the course of the day.
Take a break – the sidewalks and parking lots around my office complex create a quarter mile loop, so weather permitting, colleagues and I try to take a 15 minute afternoon break and can usually do 3 laps in that time. When the weather (or my chosen footwear for the day) isn’t cooperating, then we’ve also taken advantage of an empty conference room for a 15 minute exercise break. This break started out as a 30 day plank challenge, but we incorporated wall sits, wall push-ups, squats, arm workouts and even yoga. Intensity and attire are key factors here. We don’t do anything where we get too sweaty – this isn’t replacing a workout, we just want to move a little. Yoga Builder is a great app that we’ve used to build an array of 10-15 minute low intensity yoga routines. The yoga routines are a big favorite as they also tend to reduce stress during the workday. Additionally, a colleague recently read an article that mentioned many of the exercises we do can help promote good bone density with aging!
Build a desk – I work for a non-profit, so there aren’t always resources available for things like a treadmill desk or even a standing desk, so we took matters into our own hands! We assembled our standing workstation utilizing supplies gathered from empty cubicles around our work area. We then created a calendar with 30-minute sign up slots so folks in our department could sign up for a rotation each day. It wasn’t the greatest set up because it wasn’t easily adjusted for height, but our perseverance paid off and the department recently purchased an adjustable sit-to-stand computer workstation for our department. It’s been a big hit so far and other departments will hopefully follow suit!
For the ambitious – a few years ago we asked HR for permission to use an undeveloped section of our property and convert it into a community garden for the office staff. This was seriously hard work breaking up the red, Georgia clay, tilling the ground, building a chicken wire fence, planting, weeding, and trying to keep the surrounding grass away. But it was also a great success! One colleague even had access to rain barrels that he was able to integrate into our irrigation system so that we could use the sprinkler system but weren’t using the company’s water supply. And now all summer long there are fresh zucchini, tomatoes, squash, peppers, and even strawberries!
What are some small changes you could incorporate into your work day to lessen the amount of time spent sitting at a desk?