Don't Let Working From Home Turn You Into a Desk Potato
Try these six microchillers to boost your energy and well-being.
Posted July 30, 2020
“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” —Edward Stanley
Many Americans spend a large portion of their days in a car, at a desk, or in front of a screen. The other sad truth is that our bodies weren’t designed to sit for long periods of time. Doing so can lower your life expectancy and put you at a greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
You’ve heard it until you might be sick of it, but the fact is that physical exercise is powerful medicine against stress. But as many as 40% of Americans—who prefer sitting on their duff to exercising—follow the lead of comedian Joan Rivers, who said, “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, He would’ve put diamonds on the floor.”
Don’t Park It for Too Long
Okay, I admit it: Working out can suck. But let’s look at the alternatives. Prolonged sitting reduces blood and oxygen flow, causes weight gain, and contributes to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that being a desk potato may be as bad as or worse than smoking and actually cuts your life expectancy—not to mention that it truncates your career success and trajectory.
According to an American Cancer Society study, women who sat more than six hours per day were 34% more likely to die than those who were more active. The same figure for men was 18%. On the flip side, the American College of Sports Medicine reports that workers who exercise a minimum of 45 minutes a week take 25 to 50% fewer sick days. And British scientists report that middle-agers who exercise at least twice a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than couch potatoes.
Chances are you spend an inordinate amount of time chained to your desk. Windowless cubicles and airless open-floor office plans can take a toll on job performance and overall work health. If COVID-19 prevents you from getting to the gym for a rigorous workout, you can practice gentle forms of exercise between appointments at your home workstation to help you chill and enhance your mental clarity, physical strength, and flexibility.
Move and Stretch at Your Desk
Just moving around can cut your risk of sudden cardiac arrest by 92%. Plus, when you get moving, physical tension and mental stress melt away, and the solution to a mulled-over problem becomes crystal clear.
Experts say just being on your feet at your desk instead of sitting can help. Simply not sitting gives you the benefits of exercise. Stand up, breathe deeply, shake, twist, and stretch out the built-up tension. Take a few seconds to reach high. Let yourself feel the stretch as you elongate your body and notice where you hold tension then release it. Shake the part of your body where you sense tension. As you continue to stretch, bring your attention to each part of your body that has remained tight. Bend over and touch your toes and feel that stretch letting the tension in your body evaporate. Consider taking short five-minute strolls outside on a nice day or up and down a flight of stairs in bad weather.
Try Chair Yoga
Practice chair yoga between meetings right at your desk. Sit in your chair and inhale and raise your arms toward the ceiling. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach upward with your fingertips. Anchor your sit bones in your seat and reach up from there. Place your left hand over your right knee and right arm on the back of the chair. Stretch lightly for 60 seconds. Place your right hand over your left knee with left arm on the back of the chair for another 60 seconds. After three to five minutes you will notice a renewed energy and mental clarity then you’re ready to get back in the game.
Practice Conscious Deep Breathing
The human body discharges 70% of its toxins through breathing. If your breathing isn’t operating at peak efficiency, you’re not ridding yourself of toxins. Conscious deep breathing puts life back into your body, helps conquer daily strains on the job, and salves your soul.
Notice your breathing right now. Is it coming from high in your chest or deep in your abdomen? Is it fast or slow? When you take conscious deep breaths, you can’t get as worked up over last-minute deadlines or missed appointments. Breathe deeply throughout the workday because your body can’t maintain the same level of stress with the extra oxygen in your bloodstream when you breathe from your abdomen.
Meditate for One Minute
Meditating or contemplating at your desk for just 60 seconds helps you unwind, clears your head, and raises your energy level. Open awareness meditation is restorative in body, mind, and spirit.
Sitting at your desk, identify as many sounds around you as you can. You might notice the heating or air conditioning system, traffic off in the distance, voices from other offices, ticking of a clock, or the gurgling of your own stomach. After one minute, bring your attention inside. You might notice that your heart and respiration rates are slower and your tight muscles have loosened because you took yourself off the red alert of your thinking mind and brought it into the present moment, activating your rest-and-digest response.
Yawn Yourself to Calm
Some neuroscientists believe that you can yawn yourself to calm and advocate that yawning be a part of any stress reduction program. Much like meditation, yawning lowers stress by putting you in a deep state of relaxation. It acts like an air conditioner for your brain by putting more oxygen into your lungs and cooling down your neurological system. It’s an emotional discharge that calms your body, sending the message that your system is powering down. So before the next stressful meeting, performance review or speech, yawn intentionally as many times as you can until you start to feel more relaxed and ready to brace the challenge.