Prolonged sitting is said to be unhealthy. What should we do about it? The most obvious recommendations would be getting up every X minutes and doing exercises, or working on a standing desk. Yet prolonged standing isn't exactly healthy either, plus it's exhausting. An electric height-adjustable desk can be cost-prohibitive. Having to get up from work too frequently could be a distraction.
A workable approach might be setting a timer to 50 minutes and then doing a 10 minute break with light exercise, then repeat it and do a longer break every 2-3 hours. Would this be enough?
I want to push back a bit on your argument about standing desks.
First off, I say "good day" to you sir!
I work 10-11 hour days and I thought that standing all day would be exhausting and cause feet/leg pains, but I went ahead and made a standing desk anyway. The truth about standing desks is that you will not be standing all day. I often find myself leaning against the desk, pacing about, squatting, and sitting in a chair that I keep nearby in case the mood strikes. The variety of body movements I get throughout the day makes it completely doable and downright enjoyable. No timer required.
You can also earn standing desk bragging rights by taking a few calls laying down under your desk. Try it out! Your coworkers will think you are even more of an annoying freak than they already secretly do.
The US government says standing is dangerous and that everyone in the workplace should have a chair available to do their job (OSHA) if possible. Now we find out that sitting is dangerous. The obvious solution is to get a treadmill desk (they exist) and put your cabinets and maybe the office printer in a tree to ensure plenty of climbing.
I wouldn't worry too much about it if you are getting up regularly to stretch your legs and lead a pretty active life outside of work. For lunch, eat while walking.
This is a catch 22 - you gotta work to live but apparently your work will kill you. If you can't stop worrying about it, start looking for a job that involves more movement.
The big problem with answering this question is that much depends on your job. There are many occupations where you simply can't get up and wander around/exercise when you hit your timed limit. You wouldn't be popular if you were on a production line for example.
However, there is nothing to stop you flexing parts of you body whilst still sitting and working. You can rotate ankles, bend knees, hunch and relax shoulders, roll you head/neck first one way then the other. And you can always change your sitting position to relieve your posterior. Sit back in the chair, sit up, perch on the front of the seat, shift your weight from buttock to buttock every few minutes etc.
Of course, getting up and going for a coffee, or walking up/downstairs instead of taking the lift (elevator) once or twice an hour is always preferable.
In my line of work (software engineering) you can already get timers that pop up on your screen to tell you to take a break - primarily to prevent eye strain from looking at a monitor for too long - and they automatically lock your keyboard out for a preset period of time, so you are forced to go for a wander.
I changed my desk at work to a standing desk (by sticking a coffee table on top of it, lol), and bought an adjustable-height stool so I can alternate between sitting and standing. I also am known at work for roaming the halls at regular intervals. I send documents to a printer on the other side of the building and walk down there to pick them up, probably at least once an hour. People have noticed, but I just say my printer's crappy and I need higher quality.
I'm lucky to have a semi-private space, and I keep workout bands at my desk and use them a couple times a day. I do desk push-ups and touch my toes regularly, and when it's not storming outside, go for a walk around the block in the afternoon.
All this is fairly new to me, too. Although I've been VLC/ZC/paleo for four years now, I'm just getting to the point where my body is telling me -- demanding of me, really -- that I start moving more. It's a wonderful feeling, and it's so strong that I'm honestly looking for a way to change my income source so I'm not trapped in a building all day long. And at age 47 in this economy...scary! But I've followed my body this far on this journey, and it's been right at every step, so I'm inclined to trust it now, too.
So, I like your plan of setting a timer and doing light exercise at intervals. It's similar to what I do in a more organic fashion, but if you're a planning-type person, I think that would work great. (And I hate to suggest a PaleoNazi kind of solution, but since I'm considering it myself, I'll just put it out there: Ever think of not having a desk job?)
I don't have an office job, but when I have to sit for a long period of time I alternate between standing and sitting on a zafu (meditation pillow) or yoga block. Sitting on the floor in this way is a lot like squatting- which is an ergonomically natural position and allows for length in the spine. These were basically the two options before chairs came about. I'm not sure how practical or accepted it would be in an office environment... but if you're up for it, try it out. (maybe you could make a 'bunk desk'! one on the floor, one at standing height...)
First I'd say read Gokhale's book, google it or amazon it. Her prescriptions for sitting, walking, and sleeping changed my life.
Second I can only offer a personal anecdote: I worked in a ridiculously dreary no-Internet office in Japan for 3 years. I would leave my desk and walk up and down five flights of stairs 3-4 or more times a day. I got weird looks and all but as long as they don't fire you right?
I'm inclined to think 'sitting is deadly' might be correlation, not causation. People with sedentary modern jobs often eat very unhealthy modern diets and live otherwise sedentary lives (driving to work, driving home to sit on the couch). Hunter-gatherers spend plenty of their time sitting or lying around, according to all groups we have studied more recently. They also spend some time each day at least walking/squatting, and often engaging in more strenuous activity.
I don't worry about it much or make an effort not to sit around, although I am active in spurts. I am a fidgeter naturally, and even in a chair or lying in bed I change positions a lot. I also do isometrics when I'm otherwise inactive - that's been a life-long habit for some reason.
However I just changed the job supplying the bulk of my income (formerly a desk job). I've grown to hate being in an office all day and often being behind a desk - this new job will keep me on my feet, working with my hands, and busy!
I have always thought these chairs looked comfy and more professional than just a ball.
Standing desk kind of gal, myself. I work in a very public space, and converted it myself. I get a lot of pity comments (like my boss is too cheap to buy me a chair! haha). I just make a joke and brush it off. I love standing, now that I am used to it.
Using data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, here is a calculator which visually displays the caloric difference between sitting and standing at work: http://blog.jpofficeworkstations.com.au/2013/05/sitting-vs-standing-calorie-calculator.html
I do weighted squats every morning, bit of yoga, and walk a few miles daily, nothing crazy, and after just a few months of doing this I can tell by my body composition im probably fine sitting for the majority of my 9-5, I used to have a somewhat soft posterior, now I could almost crack nuts with it (not that I've tried)
Paleo man was active but also probably very chill when he could afford to be according to what I've read
I actually find sitting good for my posture, I tilt away the back of my chair so I have to sit upright & use my core, tense my abs, do kegels throughout the day...
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