How to Move More During Your Work Day (Without The Fear That You're Going To Die If You Don't)

Sydney Malawer
June 5, 2018

Society at large has been up in arms about how working in an office is having a negative impact on our health. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find terror-inducing results like “22 ways your office job is destroying your body” and “Yes, Your Desk Job is Killing You”. Although the objective information these articles present is, for the most part, valid, the click-baity-fear-mongering titles are just flat-out unnecessary. Yes, it’s true that sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer has been correlated with slower metabolism, musculoskeletal pain, eye-strain, and stress on the heart, kidneys, and colon, but it doesn’t mean that if you work in an office you’ll for sure die of a "heart attack caused by heart disease and chronic kidney stones mixed with obesity and a dash of ankylosing spondylitis”. Let’s dig deeper into these claims to use logic to counteract our anxiety around working in an office.

First off, it’s important to understand that those who develop many of these disorders tend to have a family history which makes them predisposed to developing them. This means that if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll out-of-nowhere develop heart disease because you spent your career working in an office. In the same vein, the fact that your grandfather suffered from diabetes doesn’t mean that you’re destined to suffer the same fate because you work in an office if you have healthy eating habits and take other disease-prevention precautions.

Secondly, these articles create a “chicken or egg” dilemma. There is substantial evidence that the power of suggestion influences our health and behavior, for better or worse. Since these articles and research studies on the workplace death-wish are presenting worst-case scenarios, it is hard to separate suggestion from reality given the intensity of fear surrounding negative health effects of working in an office.

Thirdly, the proven health consequences of NOT having a job are just as dire as those documented for sitting at a desk all day. Since 86% of jobs in America require a substantial amount of sitting, you’re seemingly caught in a catch-22. At least with a job you’ll be able to counteract some of the negative consequences of working in an office by feeding yourself nourishing food, paying for a gym membership, getting an acupuncture treatment, and getting away into nature for the weekend without the constant worry of how you’re going to afford it.

That said, it is always good to incorporate movement into your work day in a way that’s natural, habit-forming, and simply enjoyable. Walking regularly has proven to help you maintain a healthy body weight, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mood, among other benefits.Below are some ways to get moving during your work day organically without fear and anxiety.

Find a ‘Break Buddy’. Ask your work-wife/work-husband to go on a walking coffee break with you. Convince your employee to do a walking check-in. Get your manager to invite you to a cup of coffee in the cafe down the block during your weekly meeting. We are social beings, so create some social accountability for your work-day walking habits.

Replace a quick email with a desk visit. For those emails that don’t require bullet-point instructions or CC’ing 20 people, take the opportunity to walk to your colleague’s desk and relay the information. It’ll help increase face-time with your workmates as well as encourage them to walk to your desk when relaying information to get their walking breaks in!

Walk instead of being transported. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Park in the spot furthest from the entrance. Find opportunities to forgo technologically-assisted mobility for a slow, enjoyable stroll.

Go to the bathroom furthest from your desk. The average person goes to pee about seven times a day, or about once every 2 hours while you’re awake. That gives you on average 3-4 opportunities during the workday to walk to the bathroom, so taking the long-route to the furthest bathroom gives you a few more minutes of movement throughout the day.

Set a timer, even if you don’t always follow it. Put a timer on your phone for every 30-60 minutes using a smooth ringtone (aka not “Old Car Horn”). Use it as an “invitation” to take a quick walking break, and if you’re feeling antsy or in need of movement, accept the invitation.

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