Antidotes for sedentary jobs: getting more life in your life

NPR is carrying a story about the health risks of a sedentary life, covered last week in the New York Times. (I blogged about it here.)

This story, Sitting All Day Is Worse For You Than You Might Think, is available for reading and listening by clicking the link.

This article recommends sitting on a stability ball (aka exercise ball) and taking frequent mini-breaks.

I’ve worked at sedentary jobs for many years. At my last job, after a period of not working and living an active life (walking, swimming, biking a lot), I took lunch-time yoga classes and brought in an exercise ball to sit on instead of using my office chair.

Many people, one at a time, asked me about it when they came by my office on another matter. I let them try mine if they liked. I believe one or two may have even got one for themselves.

(You know, I think I was kind of a pioneer, ahead of my time in that workplace. They probably saw me as being too “out there.” I don’t know, and actually it’s none of my business. My business is taking care of me. And now I’m moving away from sedentary work. My body just needs to move. I’m much happier and healthier.)

When you sit on an exercise ball, you use your leg muscles. It’s also easier to roll, bounce, sway, and otherwise get more movement into your day at a desk.

Also, without a back to lean against, using an exercise ball for a chair really works your core muscles. You have to hold your torso up with your muscles. That may be a little fatiguing at first. It took me a week to get used to it. I was never sore, though, just tired from the extra work until my body accommodated it.

I think I got my exercise ball at Target for $12.99. I’m not very tall, but the largest size worked for me. I think it was 75 mm.

They come with a foot pump. You fill it with enough air so that it’s firm. Every six months or so, you need to put more air in because either the rubber has stretched or it has leaked a tiny amount.

I used a large bent paper clip to pull the “nail” out of the air hole, pumped more air in, and replaced the nail.

You could put a square of duct tape over the nail if you’re worried about it popping or leaking.

I’m not sure how much weight they can hold. You can spend more for a burst-resistant ball.

If an exercise ball is not an option, the next best thing is to sit on the edge of your office chair rather than leaning against the back. At least you’ll strengthen your core muscles.

I like the idea of mini-breaks. Walk to the water fountain or restroom, or just take a walk around your workplace. As you walk past offices, listen to the sounds of people at work, catch snatches of phone conversations, hear how fast people type, smell various aromas, see how people personalize their office space, let your eyes rest from computer work by looking down the long hallways. Stretch, dance, do a minute of yoga.

It’s all good and puts more life in your life!

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