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Death by Chair

By Marcus | In Health & Lifestyle | on September 19, 2011

It’s Monday and for most of you, it’s back to the daily grind at an office. Sean just recently posted about fixing your seated posture. I’d suggest you take the time to look over them, as he also links to some previous articles he had written. Those may help you mitigate the damage that your innocuous office chair inflicts upon you during the workday.

Sean also discussed another angle to address the problem with extended sitting via a standing workstation. In fact, a study at Cornell even showed that standing workstations can increase productivity. Mark forwarded another summary that Cornell made on the topic of desks. They also state one of the primary problems with sitting all day that Sean mentioned:

Sitting for more than 1 hour has been shown to induce biochemical changes in lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue rather than these being metabolized by muscle, and extensive sitting also relates to heart disease risks, so people are advocating standing to work because this use more muscle activity (burns about 20% more calories). These changes happen in both fit people who regularly aerobically work out and also unfit and obese people, so regular exercise doesn’t address this.

The summary is short and worth reading as it discusses the pros and cons of both standing workstations as well as the treadmill desks that have been introduced at some offices. The takeaway is that it may be better to take a break for a couple minutes after every 20-30 minutes of work.

…every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient.

This dovetails into another concept that Al from CrossFit Inland Valley told me about some years ago. There is a free article from the CrossFit Journal titled “Tabata My Job”, and the concept is pretty simple — applying the Tabata protocol to work.

Studies show that the average American worker spends ten hours a day at the office, yet, after chatting with colleagues, surfing the web, and strolling to the water cooler, accomplishes just one and a half hours of actual work. In other words, 85 percent of the time most people spend at the office goes completely down the drain.

Here’s how it works: Take the eight tasks at the top of your to-do list… Whip your interval timer out of your gym bag, and set it for eight ten-minute/five-minute repeats. Fire it up, and jump in on the first task. When the bell chimes, stop. Seriously, stop. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t finished. Just put down what you’re doing. You’ll get to it later that day, or, for painful, avoided tasks, in the next day’s Tabata pass. Then spend five minutes goofing off. Surf the web, hit the bathroom, fire spitballs at the obnoxious guy two cubicles over. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it’s not work.

But, once the timer next beeps, immediately jump back in for task number two. Hit it hard, knowing that, as soon as you start, you’re literally just minutes from moving on.

Now I’ll be honest, I tried this before when Al told me about it and it really works! My productivity was much higher and I was able to more easily focus on tasks, knowing a break was just around the corner. Going forward, I’ll make sure to use at least two of those “goofing off” minutes walking around and reap the benefits of both productivity and posture assistance.


WOD 09.19.11

Back Squat 3×5 or Wendler
Bench Press 3×5 or Wendler

c/o 5 rope climbs

2 Comments to "Death by Chair"

  • becky says:

    September 19, 2011 at 8:41 AM -

    I have to say … every 20 minutes sounds like too often? I’m going to try it today tho. good post and thanks for the good info!

  • Mark Miller (M^2) says:

    September 19, 2011 at 11:13 AM -

    In the world of how to handle tasks I’ve seen a few different methods, “Getting Things Done” is pretty popular. Another I ran across is called The Pomodoro Technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/), where it’s 25 mins on, 5 mins off.

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