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5 ways to stay active at work with a desk job

Does another day at the office mean another day of prolonged sitting? You’re not alone. The average Canadian adult spends nearly 10 hours per day in a chair, roughly seven of which are at work.

And sitting for a long time (even if you’re disciplined with your exercise routine and achieve the recommended 150 minutes per week) is bad for your health. Not only can it lead to physical discomfort, in the form of neck and back pain, tight muscles and stiff joints, it’s also associated with health issues like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, anxiety and more.

You know you should get up and move as much as possible, but how can you achieve that and still get stuff done? The good news is that you don’t need to get a sauna-like sweat on; you just need to momentarily interrupt the sitting throughout your day. Here are five easy ways to stay active at work:

1. Park farther away
If you live too far from the office to walk or bike, you probably take a car or public transit to work – and that means more time sitting! To combat a sedentary commute, avoid the temptation to find the closest parking space to the office. Parking farther away means you’ll get a beneficial walk in at the beginning and end of your day. If you take transit, try getting off a stop early and walking the rest of the way.

2. Stay out of the elevator
If you work in a building with multiple floors, take the stairs whenever possible. It’s good to get into a routine of using a bathroom or printer on a different floor.

3. Schedule mini-movement breaks
Stand up every 30 minutes. It’s easy to forget to do this when focusing on work tasks, so consider setting a recurring alarm or notification in your calendar. Alternatively, you can install an app that reminds you to take regular breaks. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stop working. You can:

  • Stand up or walk for work phone calls

  • Walk to a colleague’s desk for a conversation, rather than emailing them

  • Schedule “walking meetings,” whenever possible

  • Reply to a work email or text on your mobile phone while standing

  • Stand at the back of the room for lengthy presentations

Many short bursts of movement can add up. Even just 30 seconds – a quick stretch or walk – every 30 minutes will help.

4. Ask for an adjustable sit-stand desk
You may be surprised that, like sitting, standing for too long can also lead to health issues. The best solution is having an adjustable desk that allows you to switch between sitting and standing. Switch back and forth frequently to avoid fatigue in either position. It also benefits your employer by:

  • Improving productivity and engagement

  • Reducing worker fatigue and absenteeism

  • Reducing health and disability claims, which helps keep employee benefit costs down

5. Stretch it out
A few times each day, take a short break for light stretching. This can help to reduce the stiffness and soreness that occurs as a result of working in a sitting position.

Here are some recommended stretches from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. See which ones work best for you and add these to your daily routine.

These tips were created for informational purposes only, based on readily available guidance, and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, as circumstances will vary from person to person. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and treatments.