We are learning from nearly every kind of health expert about the damage of sustained sitting. We are being told it is more destructive than smoking. Let me scare the heck out of you first and then talk about some solutions.
Sitting too much weakens and atrophies our muscles. It can mess up our backs. It can cause us to put on the pounds. It can cause varicose veins. It increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, blood clots, and some cancers. It can be bad for our mental health. As if all of this isn’t terrifying enough, it can shorten our lives.
Now, I mention all this in a Leading Thoughts because leaders are often at greatest risk for troubles from sustained sitting. They sit at desks. They sit on planes. They sit for a long time in cars. Then, when home, they sit in a comfortable chair for hours more.
It is killing us, the medical experts tell us. So let’s talk about solutions.
The first is simple. Workout. You have to sit and always will. The goal is to push back on the effects. A daily workout that has you moving aggressively for 30 minutes will do a great deal of good.
The second is a standing desk. Many of you are probably already using these. Good. When you combine this with an Apple Watch or some other kind of device that gripes at you to stand and move around, you are heading in the right direction. Even an old, traditional wooden desk can be adapted for standing with the right standing desk converter.
The third is cheap and simple. Use a tennis ball. As you sit, move it around to various locations under your bottom, against your back, and under your legs. It is a passive form of stretching and it causes blood to rush wherever you put it for a period of time. I use one at my desk and on flights of any serious length. A one dollar tennis ball can make a huge difference. It’s like a mini massage that becomes a general massage as you move it around.
The fourth solution is to sit on an exercise ball as you work. I do this all the time. Yes, it is still sitting, but it is sitting that allows greater movement, strengthens your core as your muscles work harder to keep you upright and work against the ball’s roll, and the shifting pressure moves blood around.
The fifth solution is my favorite for this problem and for many others. Get a massage gun. Perhaps you’ve seen them. They were originally only used by professional sports teams and chiropractors but they’ve recently come into common use. They really help you correct facia attachments, soreness, tension, injury, and pain. They help dissipate lactic acid in your muscles and increase blood and lymphatic flow. They can serve to improve range of motion and, generally, heal some of the damage we do by sitting. I strongly recommend them.
Finally, break up the day. When I write, I can look up and suddenly notice that I’ve been sitting for four hours without moving anything but my fingers on the keyboard. I’m grateful for the gift of concentration but if I don’t learn better habits that gift could kill me. Let’s fix this together. Set a timer. Stretch. Shoot nerf hoops. Do some floor exercise. Get outside and throw that tennis ball around. Whatever. Just move every so often. A great deal is riding on it.