In my prior life (more years ago than seem possible), I worked in public relations. And while I liked many aspects of my job, sitting at a desk all day killed me. This back pain stuff isn’t new to me, although in the sitting days it stuck to my neck and mid-back rather than the low-back and hip junk I’ve got going on now. Being on my tush, tippy-typing away all day long really took a toll (well, that and the fact that I couldn’t seem to care about long-range marketing plans and all the other stuff the people around me got all worked up about, but that’s another story). I remember one day, plodding through the hall, s l o w l y making my way back to my desk and seeing a couple of guys painting the walls. As in, two guys with a van, splattered overalls, and a bunch of drop-cloths kind of painting. You know, like this. All I could think was, “Man, I’d give anything for that to be my job right now.” My body was so miserable stuck to that desk chair, that despite years of college and a love of writing, I was longing for a career in interior painting. Nothing wrong with painting for a living mind you, just not what I would have pictured as my career goal.
Not long after that, I left my job (no, I was NOT fired), and decided to go back to school to study exercise physiology. I realized fitness, movement, and physical activity were what made me feel most alive, and my body responded in such a positive way. I LOVED that exercise was my job. Even when I wasn’t working out myself, I was still on my feet, walking around, working with clients or demonstrating exercises to people in the gym. Just moving. Sure, sometimes my feet got tired and sore. Sometimes I was glad for a little sit-break. But mostly, it felt great. I’d come home from work feeling worn-out, but energized. Like I deserved to sit down and relax–like I’d earned it. And more importantly, the time I did spend at a computer, or watching t.v., or even reading, felt balanced and good rather than tortuous.
For the past year, though, sitting has snuck its way back into my life, and I’m feeling it. It happened gradually, as I became more dedicated to this blog; as I worked to develop my coaching business; as I grew more limited by my chronic pain.
I don’t like it. Experts don’t like it either. Did you know that multiple studies show sitting can shorten your life? The most obvious reason is that when you’re sitting all day you are burning less calories, and likely ingesting more in an attempt to kick-start your energy and focus, or just numb your boredom. We all know that excessive calories = obesity = chronic illness = early death. Yikes! In fact, a Mayo Clinic researcher told The New York Times, “Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.”
Yeah. Just ask those Chinese internet cafe gamers.
The truth is, it’s hard for most people to avoid sitting. One of my favorite quotes from the Weight of the Nation series is when a researcher says something along the lines of, “We’ve engineered physical activity out of our lives.” If you need a computer to do your job–and most people do–you are going to spend the majority of your day sitting. Short of a dramatic job-change, what can you do about all that sitting?
There’s the often-heard advice about taking frequent stretch breaks during the day: getting up from your desk and actually going to people to have discussions, rather than e-mailing or phoning for every little thing: using your lunch-break to workout: taking several 10-minute walk breaks throughout the day. You could even get hard-core and install a treadmill workstation in your office.
Those are all great options, and choosing even one of them would make a difference in your overall well-being. But there’s something else I’d like to suggest: sit less in the rest of your life.
Sitting all day at work is crappy, but coming home and sitting more is even worse. Sitting all weekend long after a week of sitting is worse on top of worse. Get off your tushie and get out in the world. I know it’s hard at first. You’re tired. You’re drained. You’re downright exhausted from all that sitting. The last thing you want to do is drag your butt on a walk, to the gym, or some other active outing. But the more you do it the better you will feel, and the more it will feel natural and necessary.
Here’s some of the get-of-your-duff stuff we’ve been doing lately.
Ok, that’s enough desk-time for me today. Have a happy Thursday!