Movementum's Unofficial Guide to Surviving the Sedentary Office


As time moves on and more research is done on the subject it becomes increasingly clear that sitting at a desk all day isn't good for us, in either body or mind. The modern office based lifestyle is very different from the lifestyle of our prehistoric hunter gatherer ancestors, and yet our bodies aren't all that different at all, and this is the crux of the problem, our bodies just aren't equipped to deal with long periods of being still, if we were, we would be a tree, perfectly designed to sit in one place of years upon years.

But even though we know a sedentary lifestyle isn't good for humans, we are living in a time where a huge proportion of jobs involve sitting for long periods of time, I could even hazard a guess that you are sitting right now as you read this, so today we are going to talk about some ways you can avoid being sedentary, even in an office job.

Before we start I'd like to mention a couple of things. First of all I'm not going to insult your intelligence by saying things like, "eat healthier" or "get more sleep", because realistically you already know you should be doing and I would like to give you something a bit more interesting and useful to consider.

Secondly, I understand that not everything I recommend in this article will be possible to do in your workplace, it might be against the rules, something that the office culture won't allow (which is often as difficult or more difficult to navigate that actual solid rules) or it might not be practical in your job. That being the case, you need to remember that you have to take control of your own health, rules can be changed and office culture can be altered, don't make the excuse that you cant be healthy, because if you don't look after your health inside of work, no one else will, and  then your time outside of work will be significantly worse.

 Ok, on to the tips.

1. Don't phone, don't email, walk instead

If you need to speak to someone else in the building or nearby area, don't call them or send them an email ,walk to them instead, and while you're at it , take the stairs not the lift. This has a few benefits, first of all, as we've talked about many a time at Movementum, walking is pretty much the best and simplest ways to stay healthy, you won't get ripped or have a six pack, but for cardiovascular health, bone density, burning calories and just overall wellness, it's such an easy and effective way to stay fit. It's also much better for communication, its pretty easy to ignore an email or not pick up the phone, but it's pretty hard to ignore someone standing right in front of you, and it often gets the problem sorted much quicker generally.

2. Lose the heels, and the shoes altogether if you can.

high heels.jpg

Forcing women to wear heels in the office is, let's face it, antiquated, but it's not only women that wear high heels, although the stiletto still takes the cake for the stupidest shoe you can be forced to wear at work. Almost every shoe seems to have a heel nowadays, men's and women's alike, see the above picture. Wearing heels, even small ones can cause increased pressure on the toe and ball of your foot, it can cause a decrease in the dorsa flexion of you ankle, and makes you lean forward when you try to stand upright, which causes you to constantly bend your knees, which in turn anteriorly tilts your pelvis, which.......... creates a cascade of small corrections to your posture all the way through your body that over time become dysfunction, even when the heels are removed. Most modern shoes also have very restrictive toe areas as well as very solid, inflexible soles, which aren't ideal, so I would recommend taking them off to give your feet a rest when you are sitting at your desk. Another option would be to get something like these, the Vivobarefoot hand cut Lisbon, which are barefoot shoes, with no heel rise and a flexible barefoot sole, which are a great, albeit slightly expensive way to feel barefoot even when you aren't.

3. Use your chair differently

This one's pretty simple, get as much variety from your chair as possible, sit on it, squat on it, kneel on it, sit cross legged on it, turn it around and straddle it or even move the thing out of the way and stand at your desk for a bit . Whatever you can do to increase the amount of positions you sit in, although movement is the most important aspect to maintaining your health in the office, variety is a close second, so use different positions and switch them regularly.

4. Get some plants for your desk

Plants are great for you,  they improve mood and productivity, they remove harmful toxins from the air, including formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide, as well as absorbing carbon dioxide and turning into lovely fresh oxygen for you to breath.  The leaves also have a slight negative charge, which attracts dust particles which are then absorbed into the plant. Finally, some types of bacteria found in soil have been shown to activate the part of our brain that generates serotonin, essentially working as an antidepressant.

5. Work by a window and open it.

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If you can, work by a window and open it, you and your newly purchased desk plant will appreciate it, sunlight has a great effect on the body including increasing vitamin-d levels, reducing the risk of nearsightedness, as well as reducing the risk of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Offices are usually a place with poor air circulation, lots of people and lots of synthetic materials, this is a recipe air with a high level of pollution, so opening the windows allows for (hopefully) fresh air from the outside world to circulate your work-space.

6. Walk while you take phone calls or conference calls.

If you regularly have to take long calls with clients or conference calls with others in your company, go for a walk while you do it, you don't always need to be sitting down to take a call, get a good pair of headphones with a build in microphone so you can hear them and they can hear you, and get out of your office, even if it's just to go round the block while you talk to them, this is a concept coined by biomechanist and natural movement expert Katy Bowman called stacking, stacking is when you combine movement and wellness goals with doing tasks you would otherwise have to do anyway, such as walking to the shops and carrying your shopping home, instead of driving. Walking and taking a call is a great example of stacking, you are getting movement, sunlight and fresh air all while getting your work done.

7. Get away from your desk for lunch.

Whether that means walking to the shops to get some food, going out to find a nice place to sit and eat or even just going to the canteen/communal area and talking to your colleagues, get away from your desk to take your breaks elsewhere. By leaving your desk for lunch and break times, you separate the time you are working from the time you are resting. Humans only have the capacity to work seriously on a task for a few hours at a time before the efficiency and quality of their work begins to dramatically decrease. Although it might feel like you are getting less work done, working hard for a couple of hours followed by a reasonable rest is much more effective for a good work output than long sessions of work interrupted by eating food and checking how many likes your picture got on Instagram.

So there you have it, 7 tips to help you live a healthier life in an office job, there are many more tips to give, and I could go into much more detail on every topic I've mentioned today (and probably will in a blog or video some time) but that will do for today.

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