Last Summer, when in a cemetery with my children in the centre of town, we witnessed the advent of Pokémon GO which turned out to be a hit both on the streets of London and in the office arena. With 69% of people playing this game at work, many polled said that office workers used it inside to get more exercise.
Certainly, people are working longer hours than ever–more hours since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And in the process they are becoming more physically unhealthy due to lack of exercise. Where working more hours is viewed as necessarily productive, despite evidence to the contrary, the very real detriment to our bodies resulting from the increased time spent seated in front of a computer is well known. The list is long and potential risks include: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.
How can we balance our health needs while maintaining the demands of our profession?
We have heard about mindfulness and meditation in the work space, but there are limitations to both. Between NHS noticesand community updates, one of the biggest health messages of 2017 has been that sitting long hours is harmful to our health. Workers in the U.S., according to a recent Harris Poll, are just as concerned about their sedentary lives with 51 percent answering that they sit most of the day at their desk and 45 percent are too tired from sitting to do exercise. And our employers will tell us that not sitting long hours will be damaging to our wallet. Between Ipsos polls and other surveys that reveal that workers are more productive when they exercise, one would think that employers would want to encourage their employees to be more active.
Wherein lies a healthy compromise, especially when the time to relax or exercise might very well be limited to a space of three minutes?
In this case, we need to take cues from airline brochures which guides passengers through exercises that can be done from their seats in order to lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a condition which occurs when blood forms clots due to periods of inactivity. And a good chunk of the population is at risk from this condition be they on a plane or at a desk: those on birth control, hormone therapy, pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, those receiving cancer treatments, those who have had recent injuries or surgery, and immobility.
So while you are at your desk dealing with clients who change the project scope for the seventh time, there are exercises you can do without getting off your chair. And you can even adapt many to work only your lower body as you type away.
This first set of exercises can be undertaken while seated at your desk. You can complete chair running and leg lifts as you answer emails from clients and study the response to your latest budget update. And when on the phone, you can work on the arm portions of these exercises or if you have an ear piece, you could complete some seated asana positions to articulate the spine and arms.
A second set of exercises to maintain a healthy spinal column can be done on the floor near your desk: the Marichyasana series (A through D). While I tell my students that it is a good idea to make time to do the entire primary series of yoga daily, doing only Marichyasana A, for two minutes daily will help the blood circulate to your extremities while aiding digestion and giving your back the necessary stretch to snap it out of its computer-coma freeze. And don’t worry if you find this posture difficult to do the first dozen times. With regular practice you will soon be able to wrap yourself into a human pretzel! It might not change your insurance premiums, but your body will love you for it.
And a third set of exercises can be executed on your way to the coffee/snack area while walking. Do some walking lunges or simply speed walk between desk, bathroom, and snack room. And while at the cooler, why not bend over, legs straightened, and put your hands, palm down on the floor. This is one of the best and simplest exercises which stimulates blood flow to the legs and back muscles.
There are many other stretches you can do while talking with colleagues which don’t have to be resemble acts from Cirque du Soleil. What is crucial while you are seated ten plus hours a day, is that you stimulate blood circulation even if you cannot meet the most recent recommendations which are to work one hour and walk five minutes or to take a “movement break” every thirty minutes.