If sitting is as dangerous to your health as smoking, as some recent research reports, it’s worth paying attention to how much time you spend in a chair in your workday, and note your ability to stay active.
Knowledge workers are especially susceptible, as hunching over a laptop or peering into a monitor often lend themselves to very sedentary roles. Eliminate the opportunities to chat in a gathering space or head off to a physical meeting, and you’ve got a recipe for a potential health crisis.
Before I began running—which I’ve found to be a fantastic way to stay energized and stave off remote work weight gain—I often felt as if my muscles were stiff. My back and legs ached, and I’m sure I spent hours on end in a seat, shoulders curled. My focus was solely on productivity and getting work done. Never did I think that a relentless, almost stubborn level of concentration could be harming my well-being. Add in long-haul flights, which I tend to take often, and there are seemingly endless opportunities for my rear to be a in chair. Not helpful or comfortable.
While running works wonders for one’s physical fitness, it isn’t something that can be done frequently throughout the day. (Who honestly has enough gym clothes for that? Or time to shower repeatedly?)
So how can you become more active? Thankfully, as much as technology has helped get us into this mess, it can help to resolve it, too.
Below are five ideas to stay active as a remote worker:
1. Try the Pomodoro technique.
I’ve mentioned this in another post about productivity, but it bears repeating: the Pomodoro technique is popular because it works. Have a kitchen timer? Set it to 25-minute intervals dedicated to concentrating on a given task. (If you don’t, use your smartphone or a computer alert.)
Allow yourself to dive deeply into your projects, inbox, etc., during this time, avoiding distractions, and then “obey the tomato” by getting up to stretch and move around for five minutes.
2. Take regular strolls.
Set a recurring calendar alert for a daily walk at a time that works well for you. Be sure to block it out on your schedule and protect it as you would any meeting, so that others understand you’re otherwise engaged. You could use this time to take a quick stroll around the neighborhood, or to do a bit of housework that gets you out of your seated funk.
Even better, you might run into someone you know or meet a new neighbor. Even a quick exchange of, “Hello, how are you?” helps to stave off loneliness in our increasingly isolated lives.
3. Meet on the move.
Alternatively, you could offer to have walking meetings by phone if you find that you can’t step away from your desk for long. This way, you can take work with you and check items off your list without sacrificing the opportunity to work a small but meaningful amount of exercise into your day.
A former boss of mine loved to do this, and we as employees were greatly amused by the adventures of his sweet pup, Gloria, who would often accompany him on such walks.
4. Switch up your scenery.
Finding it too easy to sink into the sofa? It might be time to change your environment. Head out to your favorite local coffee shop, where you can get caffeinated while working (bonus points if there are stand-up bar tables). Or ditch your office chair and opt for an inflatable ball—something an old colleague of mine swore by for great posture. I can still see him bouncing on it, gleefully schooling the rest of us on our sedentary ways.
Lastly, if a standing desk is too pricey, look for a travel version or a DIY effort with shelving. The outcome of you getting up and moving around is what matters, not the means.
5. Invest in a fitness wearable.
If all else fails (and it often does), consider investing in a wearable device. They’re great for data geeks, as you can track your heart rate, daily steps taken, calories burned, and hours in which you’re standing. You can see how you’re doing over time, and reward yourself for progress.
I use mine all the time—in fact, as I type this, I’m on a long flight to Reykjavik and my watch has already reminded me to get up several times—a welcome nudge that also prevents blood clots. That’s a win-win for sure.
After all of this healthy behavior, you can easily build habits toward more physical activity and a happier, more energetic work life.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com