Sitting VS. standing… which is better when working from home?
Have you heard the term “sitting is the new smoking”? As catchy as it may be, I disagree with the statement in an important way.
My version definitely isn’t as catchy, but I believe it’s more realistic and helpful for people to understand. IMHO, the statement should read…
“the mental and physical health impacts of PROLONGED sitting are just as bad as being a chronic smoker”.
This statement is even more important since we are sitting more than ever these days.
PLUS, sitting is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Our lives have drastically changed over the last year. If you’ve been working from home, it’s likely that you’ve been moving less than normal. Decreased physical activity, mental health challenges, and less healthy daily habits are common changes felt by many people now working from home.
It’s true that everyone is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic from a different perspective, yet regardless of your personal situation, there are some almost universal changes that have been happening for people working from home. Are the following true for you?
- You are sitting more than you were a year ago
- Your mood and energy levels have decreased
- You spend much more time staring at a screen
- You’re noticing many more aches and pains in your body
- You are exercising less
- If you still have a job, you are probably working more hours each day
- You are finding it challenging to separate work and home, particularly if you have kids
This short list just scratches the surface of the massive challenges people are facing due to the pandemic. Considering our current situation, without changes, it paints a bleak picture for the future.
The great news is that whether it seems possible or not, we are in direct control of every one of the points mentioned above.
Throughout our busy, everyday lives, it’s easy to forget that we have the power to make small changes. When we choose the right changes, they can make a big impact. By harnessing just one or two of the areas listed, we take back control of our daily actions to improve our current reality and future outcomes.
First, let’s discuss sitting.
As many more people become aware of the negative health impacts of sitting, you might think that the best solution is to buy a standing workstation. You can also create your own makeshift standing workstation with very simple everyday items from around your house…message me for details if you are interested, or check out my “work from home productivity handbook”
While a sit/stand workstation can be a great addition to your office setup, it doesn’t solve the root problem.
You see, standing is not the opposite of sitting. MOVEMENT is.
Humans are designed to move. The mental and physical health issues we face each day have little to do with sitting. Those issues have everything to do with the fact that most people barely move each day. You could make the argument that the average employee working from home moves less than a comatose tree sloth. How’s that for a visual? 🙂
Of course, the process of standing up does count as a form of movement. Standing will alleviate several negative impacts of sitting, but prolonged standing contributes to other issues.
Now, you may be thinking… ”seriously, if I shouldn’t sit, and shouldn’t stand, how am I supposed to work…at least without lying down?”.
Take a deep breath (that’s good for you too)…there’s no need to worry.
Sitting and standing can both be great. The primary issue is with how much of each we do at one time, as well as our technique when doing them.
At FRESH!, one of our goals is to help people experience that success revolves around moving WELL first, and then moving OFTEN.
It’s important to learn how to sit and stand properly, and then transition between those (and other) positions at regular intervals.
Take a look at the posture diagrams below and try these sitting and standing positions in a mirror. Notice that from the up waist up, the standing and sitting postures are essentially the same? This makes it easier to remember the key points.
Try out the positions and see how they feel.
It’s normal for these positions to feel “awkward” at the beginning. Your body will be used to something different, and we have to teach it to move/sit/stand correctly.
The best way to ensure you are in the correct position is to get feedback, corrections, and adjustments from an experienced professional. The great news is that when working from home, getting professional feedback is easily done via video! Feel free to reach out. My team and I are ready to help you and your corporate team. 🙂
Next on the agenda…let’s discuss movement.
Here’s some exciting news…at the fundamental level, when you move correctly, the type of movement you will matter much less than actually getting some (properly performed) movement done.
After you are moving well and doing that consistently, it’s easy to fine tune the TYPE of movements you are doing to dial in specific results for your needs.
With our corporate clients, we generally focus the first phase of our movement programming on overcoming the specific impacts of prolonged sitting (or standing).
This is done by mobilizing immobile tissues, releasing and hydrating “tight” or “restricted” tissues, and activating inactive muscles by practicing strategic movement patterns.
Don’t worry if this sounds complicated, here’s a simple way to think about it…
If you’ve been sitting for more than an hour, aim get as far away from that position as you can and activate your muscles while doing this.
- Actively stand up
- Bring your arms out to the sides
- Pull them as far behind you as possible (see mountain image below).
Doing this will activate your entire legs, butt, core and back while actively stretching muscles and mobilizing your chest, shoulders, hips, abdominals, and more.
To overcome prolonged static standing, just move in the opposite direction. This means that you essentially move into a deep squat with a rounded back.
Here’s an even quicker shortcut to overcome prolong sitting AND standing. Alternate between the two previously mentioned moves and sequence them with deep belly breathing.
These “breathing squats” and a fantastic way to move virtually every one of the joints in your body through a full and ACTIVE range of motion. Plus, it only takes a few seconds and allows you to practice the important deep diaphragmatic breathing pattern. This movement and breathing pattern is involved in relaxation and highly correlated with improving your cellular function to reduce stress, utilize more fat as fuel, and many more mental health benefits.
Think of breathing squats as one of the movement “superfoods” that will help keep your body functioning, and your mind focussed each day. Try them out and let me know what you think. Slowly lower into a deep squat (exhale on the way down). Stand-up slowly and inhale on the way up. Repeat multiple times!
Follow the image below as needed. 🙂
Breathing squats are just one easy way to keep your body mobile, your mind engaged, and to feel great each day.
Now, it’s up to you to make sure it happens on a consistent basis.
Here are several options to put your thoughts into action:
- Set a recurring timer every 30-60 minutes throughout the day. Aim to complete 5-10 of these movement sessions in a typical day. Each session should take 20-40 seconds.
- Try a few breathing squats (or other movements) between every meeting, before every phone call, or after some other common task you do multiple times each day.
- Challenge yourself to do 100 breathing squats (or other specific movements) in a day, but no more than 15 at a given time.
Incorporating movement and stretches into your work day not only prevents you from staying still for too long, but it’s also a good way to help reset your posture to ensure the time you do spend still is optimized.
With countless options for movement and exercise out there, the most important thing is to do whatever you do CORRECTLY!
It hard to overestimate the importance of this concept…movement and exercise are SO much more than just sweating and burning calories. In fact, exercising and working hard without a proper foundation of movement is a recipe for failure, frustration, and injury. (more about this concept in an upcoming post).
Harnessing your mindset, energy, motivation, and potential in life begin with good movement habits.
To help you on your journey to better health, greater happiness, and more energy every day, refer to the resources below:
- Join my free email coaching “blogletter” (http://bit.ly/FF-Blogletter)
- Download my free mobile fitness tracking, meditation, and accountability app (www.freshfitness.ca/app)
- For exercise tips and demonstrations, check out the FRESH! Fitness YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/freshfitnesscanada)
- Pick up a copy of one of my books (https://timborys.com/books/)
You have the essential info at your fingertips…Now it’s up to you to put it into action. You’ve got this!
Want some extra help and accountability? Please reach out. My team and I would love to help.