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5 Ways to Stay Active at Work

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Even if you exercise regularly, sitting for extended periods is correlated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. (Translation: The gym can’t undo sitting at a desk all day at work.) “With the hyper-productive demands of the modern workplace combined with longer hours, it is important to make sure that you are taking care of your body throughout the day,” says Cameron Yuen, PT, DPT, C.S.C.S., physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City. “One of the best ways to take care of your body during long work days is to simply make sure that you are moving. Staying in one position for too long is never healthy, no matter how straight you sit.”

We asked Yuen to share some ways to stay active and moving during the workday. Read on to hear his tips.

Ways to Stay Active at Work

  • 1. Set an alarm to stand up every hour
    Despite your best intentions, it’s not always easy to take a break from what you’re doing to stand up and stretch your legs — especially if you’re on a roll. So, set an alarm that will remind you to do so. “Muscles and joints tend to get stiff if they are not moved regularly; in fact, movement is one of the only ways that joints receive nutrition from the body,” explains Yuen. “When you make it a habit to stand every hour — or more — you are helping the body clear the metabolic byproducts out of the muscles and joints, while also bringing in new nutrients.”
  • 2. Take the stairs when possible
    Just because there’s an elevator doesn’t mean you have to use it. If you’re on a low enough floor and have access to a stairway, use that instead. Even if it is a single flight, taking the stairs is a great way to combat the effects of extended periods of sitting, explains Yuen. “As you sit throughout the day, fluid tends to accumulate in the lower leg veins,” he says. “The veins are great for storing fluid, but it is not healthy if pooling occurs for too long. To get this blood back to the heart, the body relies on muscles to contract and squeeze the veins. When you take the stairs, the main muscles of the lower and upper leg work together to pump out the accumulated fluid.”
  • 3. Stretch at your desk
    Ever feel stiff after typing away at your computer day in and day out? Take a quick break to stretch it out. “Adding in some light movement or stretches throughout the day can be extremely helpful for nagging aches and pains associated with sitting, especially if you tend to get headaches or backaches,” says Yuen. “A helpful series of movements for some kinds of headache relief includes a set of upper trapezius stretching and levator scapulae stretching. Try for several sets throughout the day, holding each stretch for roughly two minutes.”
  • 4. Use a standing desk
    Lots of companies today offer the choice of having a standing desk at your workstation. If the opportunity presents itself, take it and try the standing desk. “Having the option to sit or stand at work is a great way to increase energy expenditure and potentially decrease postural pains,” says Yuen. “Just like your seated posture, you want to make sure your standing posture is dynamic. Sometimes you will want to take a staggered stance, sometimes you will want to prop one of your feet up, and if your workplace allows it, you might even want to try and take off your shoes to let the muscles of your feet get some activity.”
  • 5. Take your lunch break, and move during it
    Stop working through your lunch break. Instead, use that time to focus on moving and being active. “While it sounds counterintuitive, especially if you are already tired from work or lunch, getting in a workout or even a light walk during your lunch break will help re-energize you,” explains Yuen. “This exercise helps get the extra sugar out of your blood and into your muscles, releases endorphins into your system, and helps nourish the muscles and joints that have remained stagnant throughout the day.”

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