Like many ‘knowledge workers’ or anyone in the field of technology, I spend most of my day sitting at a desk. There is increasing awareness that this is really quite unhealthy. This article by the Harvard Business Review argues that it is akin to smoking in terms of how it can lead to certain health issues. Even though I exercise regularly, spending 8+ hours a day sitting in a chair is really really bad for you.
As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation
So it’s not only about repetitive strain injuries (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome. There are some serious health concerns, and I think there will be a lot more information about this as more research is done.
Even though I am very active, I have tried to stay aware of how extended periods of sitting can be detrimental. I have even experimented with two tools that remind you to get up at pre-determined intervals.
First I tried Workrave which forces you to take short mini breaks (about 30 seconds or a minute long) and longer rest breaks (5-15 minutes) after longer periods of working. It’s based on a timer which is triggered only by activity. It then also gives simple stretches and exercises to reduce eye strain.
While Workrave works well, there doesn’t really seem to be much activity on the project any longer, so that led me to seek out a new solution. I came across Fitbolt, and its goal is to address the problem of sitting and being sedentary all day. It uses a simpler timer (not based on activity) in comparison to Workrave, but the exercises are much more diverse and advanced. They can range from simple stretches to mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and burpees which really do get your heartrate up even after only 30-60 seconds of activity. I do feel a little better after doing the exercises. It’s less obtrusive than Workrave which makes it easier to ignore, but I try not to. Other bonuses include Runkeeper integration and more cross-platform support (including a chrome plugin).
Either way the point is that in order to maintain good health, we need to exercise. That involves trying to remain somewhat active during the day but also getting in a real workout from time to time. It’s not easy, but the numbers are telling a disturbing story. The good news is that small changes with consistency can make a big difference.
Always keep moving.