When I made the move (should I say “sat into”) to a desk job, I found my body rebelling. My lower back and hips began to hurt. I was tired all the time. My hands and wrists hurt. My neck got kinks and sometimes gave me headaches. As a person who knows better, I let my activity levels decrease dramatically and was paying the price. Most people underestimate the power of exercise and just settle for feeling subpar.
“We’ve made sitting into an art form,” says James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Arizona State University. “Excess sitting is now linked with 35 diseases and conditions, including obesity, hypertension, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression.”
If everyone knew they could change the way they felt physically and live longer don’t you think they’d do it? Well, it’s not that simple. Behavior change is one of the biggest challenges I face when coaching. Most people know what to do, they simply don’t do it. Why?
Think of it this way… If our day was displayed in a pie chart, the chart is always filled entirely with our activities whether that be time with your kids or Netflix. It’s often easier to modify an activity than to comprehend adding one in. It’s a matter of mapping out that pie and making it a priority to add activity to one of those slices. You don’t have to get up and train for a marathon or commit to a body building show. Just move! This was a really hard concept for me to grasp. I have run a marathon and I have done a body building show, but I hadn’t every experienced a sedentary lifestyle that zapped all my time. This new phase of my life was my biggest challenge yet.
I found my movement in walking and getting steps on my Fitbit. I added a walk to a few breaks at work, during my lunch and after work to unwind. It was only 10-15 minutes at a time, but by the end of the day I had 45-ish minutes of walking. My other savior was stretching at my desk. I have spent a lot of time in my life working with and aged population and have always said, “The people who age the best and are the most functional in their late years are the ones who stretch regularly.” This is a great place to start. Just throw a few stretches into your routine when your eyes need a break from that computer.
To promote activity at your workplace try hosting a desk stretching workshop, have walking meetings or set a timer for a few times a day to get employees to step away from their desks.
Try out this desk stretching routine and let me know how it goes!