I used to have terrible sleeping problems.
I would wake up with a sore neck and an aching back; I was 25 years old and felt like a 75-year-old ex-linebacker. Desperate for a solution, I finally went to a chiropractor and told him that my body hurt and I thought I needed a new bed. “It’s not your bed,” he told me, “It’s the way you work.” He explained that more than 85% of Americans sit all day at work. Even if you have perfect posture while sitting (which most of us don’t), humans are not meant to sit for extended periods of time.
So I asked myself: how many hours each day do I sit?
I started doing some research and discovered that those aches and pains you feel at the end of a long workday are symptoms of something called Sitting Disease and it affects just about everyone who works in a traditional office environment. Whether it’s backaches, shoulder pains or a consistent decline in productivity from lack of blood flow and muscle stimulation, there are a number of physical and mental side effects of sitting for extended periods of time.
I found that I was sitting for more than ten hours each day. Ten hours! That’s like taking a plane ride across the U.S. twice a day. As surprising as it sounds, nearly 10% of Americans would actually rather work a 14-hour day that includes at least moderate activity, than a typical 8-hour day sitting in an office chair. And I’m beginning to consider myself part of that group.
The good news is our bodies are extremely smart. They tell us when they feel great and when there’s something wrong. It’s often our ability (or lack thereof) to listen to what our bodies are saying that determines our overall health. If you feel tired, you probably should make it a point to get more sleep. And if your body hurts after sitting all day, well, maybe it’s time tostop sitting all day.
But it starts with baby steps. Here are four healthy, simple suggestions for your next workday:
1. Drink water as soon as you wake up
After a night’s sleep, your body has been without water for hours. Trust me, it’s parched. Drinking water in the morning will make sure your body is hydrated and prepared for the rest of your day.
2. Start your day by standing
Instead of heading straight for your desk when you get to the office, break up your daily desk routine by standing for a couple hours in the morning. If your company offers them, or you can afford one, get yourself a standing desk. Although the fancy, electronic ones are nice, you can get all the health and productivity benefits from a simple standing desk as well.
3. Hold walking meetings
If your meeting doesn’t require a computer, get out of the office and enjoy a brisk walk as you talk — perfect whether you’re with colleagues or on the phone.
4. Stretch throughout the day
Even if you think you look funny in front of your boss, it’s well-worth the health benefits, not to mention you’ll just feel a whole lot better.
A healthy work environment is not something that should be reserved for the few who can afford those expensive standing desks. So start listening to your body and making small changes that can have a big impact in the short and long-term. It’s about time we start taking responsibility for our own health in the workplace.