According to the awesome Tom Rath top wellbeing researcher at Gallup-Healthways and author of Eat Move Sleep and Are you fully Charged, being sedentary is one of the biggest threats to our wellbeing, especially for those in an office environment.

According to a 2014 study by the Mayo Clinic, just 2-hours sitting undoes 20 minutes of structured exercise. To put that into context, if you went to the gym before work today and then sat at your desk all day, it’s probably canceled it out. Of course, I am not advocating that you don’t do your structured exercise, in fact, the opposite please do, the well-documented endorphin release from a morning exercise routine, be it the gym, a run in the park, a swim, dancing or Yoga to name a few, will set you up nicely for the day, helping keep you focussed and on task. It will also help keep you in shape and feeling and looking good.

I would, however, like you to consider ways in addition to this to stop being sedentary at work and at home. If your typical day consists of getting up, sitting down for breakfast, sitting in your car for an hour and then sitting at your desk for 8-10 hours, then an hours drive home, then a TV dinner followed chilling on the couch, you have probably spent 14-26 hours being sedentary, much of which is entirely avoidable. I’m going to focus this article on the getting to and “at work” bit where I have a few solutions.

Not being Sedentary getting to and from work

Consider replacing the commute with an active commute – either cycling, walking or running. In a 2014 study, researchers at The University of East Anglia found a positive link between those who cycled or walked to work and their overall wellbeing.

If you live too far away from work to use an active commute, consider commuting some of the journey using the usual method and the final bit with an active method, for instance, you could drive to somewhere out of town with free parking and cycle the rest of the way. Not only will this be good for you, it will save money, in parking charges and petrol being used at that crawler pace in the congested city. You’ll arrive full of energy, and also done you bit for the planet. It’s probably quicker too. Similarly, if you get the bus, why not get off a few stops early and walk or run the rest?  On the train – most operators encourage you to bring your bike on the train, so bike from home to the station and the station to work. If you’re a keen running or cyclist, you could replace some of your long runs and rides with the commute.

Not being sedentary at work 

Lego’s fab new HQ in London is designed as an Active working space. The whole building design is about encouraging people to move and collaborate more. Many of their workers lost considerable weight and reported health benefits after shortly moving in.

However, you don’t have to work for Lego or Google to the benefit of non-sedentary working. Heres’s a few tips to get you there:

  1. Get a stand-up desk – I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s a no-brainer. The return on investment is something Warren Buffett would be envious of. You can get them from as little as £200 for somewhere like Ikea, and prices vary upwards based on quality. Whilst I have no affiliation with them, I highly recommend Norwich-based Flomotion Studio, who will lend you a desk to see how you get on and then give you a bespoke top to your exact design needs (or use your existing one), they will also support you to get the very best out your desk, with exercises and other advice.
  2. Move around – Finding ways to regularly move position and getting a short burst of exercise will help your posture and give you a necessary energy boost. For more advice on this specifically, please check out Flomotion’s excellent guest blog here on how you incorporate simple movement into your day.
  3. Innovative options – A small amount of exercise whilst working will give a steady endorphin release, but will not tax your brain so that you cannot concentrate. I find it actually helps me stay focused, especially on a key task (like writing this blog).

a) Cycling and work

Here’s me on my “Cycle desk”. I say Cycle desk very loosely, it is, in fact, my “Stand up desk” which for me is an old straight desk bolted to the wall with some poles holding it up. I have then put my bike under it using a standard “Turbo Trainer”. Mine’s a mid-range one with good resistance and not too much noise, but you can get these as cheap as £50 new or even less secondhand. If you share an office do consider how it fits in with the neighbours. I’m a fairly good cyclist so I find riding at 10 to 12 miles per hour about right with no resistance on the trainer, but depending on your cycling you may want to adjust this up or down. This trick is to have Goldilocks setting for you, not too fast that it leaves you breathless and unable to think, but also not too slow that its’ not really kicking the endorphins in. One thing to watch with this is posture, so although I have ridden 50 miles whilst writing a report once to prove I could, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would say ride for no longer than an hour then get off and have a break and a stretch. Also, make sure your wrists are properly supported. If like me you train a lot, the bike offers also a quick and easy way to get a mid-week training session in with minimal disruption to your day.

Ian at his cycle desk

b) Walk and work

Please see the video below for a detailed insight into my treadmill desk. You can buy treadmill desks specifically designed for the office environment, but at £2k upwards, they are not cheap. Having said that, if you’re going to use it, the payback would there. I chose the DIY option again, another desk bolted to the wall, with an old treadmill under it. Mine was acquired secondhand on eBay for £140 about 8 years ago. It’s got an electrically operated incline, which is good as I can adjust it for people of different heights to try it out, the only issue being smaller people have to climb more! I walk at about 1-2 mile per hour depending on the task, but it’s the same Goldilocks factor as the cycle desk. As you are adjusting posture all the time, there are fewer posture issues, but you still need to make sure you are working properly with your wrists supported in particular. Wear trainers!

c) Wobble and work! 

If you can get the height right for you, sitting at your existing desk on a Swiss exercise ball can be a good option. You’ll need to inflate it pretty fully, and although you are still seated you will be constantly adjusting your posture, and it’s harder to have bad posture on a ball than a chair. The pucker alternative to this something like the Aeris Swopper Classic Active Stool, available at Office Furniture Scene.

Aeris S

Aeris Swopper Stool

I hope you found the above advice useful, and more importantly it’s spurred you into some action to be less sedentary at work.

Ian Hacon

Founder, Yellow Brick Road