The human body is not built for sitting in a swivel chair for eight hours a day. And yet that’s what many of us do. Thousands of years of hunting and gathering has not left us with bodies designed for staring at a computer, filling out TPS reports and wishing a plague upon our copiers. Will our bodies one day evolve into a structure better suited for office work? Or will the office work evolve to be better suited for our hunter gatherer bodies? Nobody knows for sure. What we do know is there are a few things you can do to mitigate the unhealthiness of our day-to-day activities.
- Get up, and get up often. It’s often said that sitting is the new smoking. Staying stationary for the better part of your day wreaks havoc on your body’s systems. Blood needs to move around your body to oxygenate your tissues, and it can’t do that if you’re not moving. Once an hour, get up and move around for a few minutes.
- Stretch it out. While you’re up moving around, stretch out your body, especially your hip flexors. Those muscles are most likely to adapt to a shortened position after sitting in a flexed position all day long. Stand up, grab your foot (as if trying to kick yourself in the behind) and pull your leg back. Then touch your toes to stretch out your hamstrings, as your knees are flexed, too.
- Sit up straight. Tension neck syndrome, upper crossed syndrome, or head too far forward syndrome, call it what you want, but it’s making us all look like cavemen again. We were doing great, evolving upwards as we should, until we all got smart phones and laptops, and now we’re hunched forward all the time. Remember, you can look down with your eyes without bending your head forward, and whenever you think of it, tuck your chin back into your neck, like you’re trying to make a double chin for yourself. This opens up space at the base of your cranium, giving a small but significant stretch to your suboccipital muscles, which are often short and tight.
- Get a massage! It’s been proven in study after study that workers are actually more productive after receiving a 15 minute chair massage. Massage has many benefits, from increased circulation to decreasing pain levels, to activating your parasympathetic nervous system, better known as your “rest and digest” function. When your body is in parasympathetic mode it gets to reboot itself, and you come out of a massage refreshed and more energetic.
- Drink more water and eat healthy food. If you have coworkers who like to bring in baked goods for everyone this can be challenging. Bring your own healthy snacks and keep them at your desk. Fruit, nuts, carrots, etc. If your coworkers insist you have a piece of their birthday cake, you can fake a phone call and run away screaming “Not Grandma!” Or you could fake an allergy after asking what’s in it. “Vanilla? That could kill me, Cheryl!” Or you could be honest and say you’re trying to monitor your sugar intake, and you wish them a happy birthday all the same.