Get The Fuck Up

by Frost on June 24, 2011

Sitting is Killing You

I will add to that infographic that sitting makes you rigid and inflexible. Hamstrings and hip flexors are flexed all day, which makes the muscles tight and prone to injury.

Months ago, I asked my employer for a standing workstation. Hilariously, their policy is that only people with certified medical issues can have them – you have to sit all day until you have a serious health problem, then you get the preventative measure that could have actually helped. And my friends wonder why I want to escape my supposedly awesome job. One day… but until then, I’ve implemented three makeshift solutions:

1) Kneeling on a rolled up towel in front of my desk instead of sitting,

2) Precariously balancing my keyboard, mouse and monitor on a big cardboard box, and

3) Finding as many excuses as possible to walk around throughout the day.

Alas, I still sit 4-8 hours/day (a typical American desk jockey/commuter/TV addict probably spends 15) so here are the exercises I use to stay mobile:

1) The Couch Stretch

2) Stability Ball Back Bend

3) Foam Rolling

See Mark’s post on thoracic spine mobility for some examples of foam rolling exercises. Also related to this subject check out his posts on Sitting and Hip Mobility. (Most of my health-related posts tend to boil down to “Read MDA” in case you haven’t noticed.)

4) Myofascial release massages

Google to find a supplier near you. Or just do as I did and insist that a girlfriend teach herself via youtube.

5) Sleep flat

I usually sleep sans pillow, and I’ve found it results in a great sleep and a loose neck in the morning. I would also like to experiment with sleeping on a harder surface, ie a carpet or a thin mat. Several weekends ago, I slept on a floor for three nights in a row and felt great after, minus the hangover that usually follows the sort of three-day weekend where you sleep on a floor every night.

So fellow office space cast members: Tell us about your experience with the health effects of office life. Any suggestions for combating the effects of the sedentary salaried lifestyle?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dulst February 20, 2012 at 10:04 am

Really enjoyed this article, will be experimenting sans pillow tonight. As I type this I’m kneeling on a cushion in front of my desk, and I’m noticing the pressure this puts on my knees. Could doing this for an extended period of time adversely affect your joints, nerves or circulation?

Frost February 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Thanks! I also find kneeling can be hard to keep up for long periods. Your body tends to know when you’re hurting it, so my general rule is to sit/stand/kneel however feels most comfortable.

Rowan June 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm

If I sleep for more than 9 hours or so I wake up with a stiff/sore back. When I go camping and sleep on a thin foam mat, I have a sore back for the first few nights, then I sleep perfectly and wake up ready and alert. It’s like someone flipped a switch and I instantly turned on, ready to spear sharks and wrestle mammoths.

When I worked in a cube, most drones had a raisable desk. I too asked for one and was rejected, older employees had more need… Of course 90% of them never used that feature and slouched so low they were practically laying down in their chair.

By the way, keep up the good work Frost.

Frost June 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm


That’s another advantage of a harder bed – less temptation to laze around in it after you wake up.

Ancalgon June 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

@Neill: Yep. I’m originally from Asia, and I’ve slept on all sorts of surfaces, from bamboo mats to the floor.

I can’t sleep on a springy American mattress for more than five or six days in a row. On top of an inexpensive sleeping bag spread on the floor works best.

As for the office work, I just started a salaried job too, and I can’t bear sitting all day. I try to take a short break and walk around a bit after every 30-45 minutes of work. Also, work in the breakroom-style area where we have have a bunch of tables of exactly the right height (luckily, my company doesn’t have a ‘stay at your desk for X hours’ sort of policy

Dennis June 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

I would just point out that some of the “sitting = death” data may not be causal. People who watch large amounts of TV are likely to be less intelligent and so have other bad health habits, like smoking, obesity, etc.

Frost June 30, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Isn’t correlational health data awesome? I agree that the above figures are probably inflated, the same way the real health effects of smoking and obesity are probably exaggerated by the likelihood of stupid, impulsive people tending to smoke and overeat.

Although you would also think that sitting down at work = higher SES.

In any case,sitting all day at a desk is bad for your soul, if nothing else…

NomadicNeill June 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm

In Asia the mattresses are far harder than we are used to in the West.

When travelling there I often stayed at very small hostels where the owners slept on the floor or what looked like low tables made from wood. In the beginning I felt sorry for them!

But I found out that hard mattresses are much more pleasant after you’ve tried it for 1 or 2 nights.

Frost June 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Yeah, I’ve heard that from a few friends who’ve done the SEA trek, hence the idea.

Ak June 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Oh yeah, I also keep a golf ball under my desk. Take off your shoe and roll your foot on it hard. Feels great and is good for keeping your feet loose.

Frost June 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Tried this! Feels awesome. Thanks for the suggestion.

Ak June 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Some good points.
I personally purchased an Isokinetics Ball Chair or work. It makes you sit up, and is great for your core. Gets some weird looks and comments, but F them.
I also use The Stick, massage stick after a leg workout and when I’m sore. It rolls the lactic shit right out of your legs.

b-nasty June 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

That ball back-bend is for chatty housewives at the ‘Curves’ gym. Do real yoga bridges progressing into a full (hands+feet only) back bridge. Then you don’t need to purchase a $40, oversized beachball in pastel colors.

Jack Dublin June 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

If you haven’t read Gokhale’s book “8 steps to a pain free back” start with that.

I personally hang from my pullup bar in the morning and evening for a bit. Feels good.

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