Get off your arse!

This week, for a change, I’m not talking specifically about running, but physical activity in general. In my job as a physiotherapist, a big part of my work is encouraging people to become more active, both through specific ‘exercise’ and ‘exercises’ (I don’t like using these words as many of my clients are put off by them!) and through increasing incidental activity.

It might sound funny coming from someone who runs 4-5 times and up to 80km a week, but on the days when I don’t run, I find it a challenge to get my 10000 steps!

A recent story from ABC suggested that 10000 is not, in fact, enough steps to gain health benefits. Apparently the number was pulled out of thin air and the real ‘magic number’ is closer to 15000. And apparently less than 20% of Australians get close to even 10000.

I wear a Garmin vivofit to keep track of steps, and as part of the setup for the device you have to set a daily goal. I set mine to 18000, because 10000 is just too easy on the days I do run (by the time I get to work I’ve usually reached 10000 or pretty close to it).

Part of the issue is that my job involves a lot of sitting. Although I try to move as much as possible, I spend the best part of my workday sitting either at my desk, in the car or at clients’ homes.

I have a few little strategies to try to up my steps at work, or after work if I have had a particularly sedentary workday!

  • I try to drink plenty of water – this works best when I’m spending most of the day in the office. Refilling my bottle, plus the inevitable toilet breaks, make it easier to get the step count up. Plus, drinking water is good for you – double win! (It is not so good when I’m going from client to client and have to find acceptable public toilets en route!)
  • Every time I print something, I go and get it straight away. This gets me moving more (compared with printing 10 items and then going to get the lot) but also, if I let it build up, my stuff gets mixed up with other peoples’ stuff. The frequent ‘sit to stand’ is also great exercise for the legs, and one of the ones I try to give to almost all my clients, although it’s not so good for me just after a marathon!
  • I always go and talk to people in my building in person, rather than phone or email. I also hate talking on the phone so that cuts out a few unnecessary phone calls!
  • When I’ve got a few files to write in, rather than take a bunch of files back to my desk and spend an hour or more writing, I take one file at a time, write in it, then put it back before getting the next one. That also ensures I complete one job before starting another!
  • I always use the stairs wherever possible (not too much of an issue considering my office is on the first floor) – I only use the lift if I am carrying something heavy or bulky.
  • Also because I object to paying for parking when there is perfectly adequate street parking nearby, I park about 5 minutes away from my building. Annoying when unexpected rain hits just before I’m due to leave, but another way to get some more incidental steps in.
  • If my step count is woefully low by the time I get home, I’ll go for a walk (weather permitting) – there is a supermarket about 10 minutes walk away from me, so if I need any ingredients for dinner, or maybe just have a chocolate craving (let’s not kid ourselves, there is ALWAYS chocolate in my house!) I’ll walk to the supermarket.
  • And I am not above walking around the house late at night if I’m oh-so-close to 10000 (or another round figure) – akin to doing laps of the carpark to get my run up to 10km (and many of my running buddies will relate to that!)

My workplace is currently trialling a ‘sit to stand’ desk and as soon as I heard about it, I put my hand up to be part of the trial. I know I sit too much, and also my hamstring tendon does not like sitting, particularly at my desk and in the car. The opportunity to spend a good part of my workday standing up was one I couldn’t miss!

My desk for the next 4 weeks. Note that it is currently tidy! And my chair has been relegated to the ‘naughty corner’ – at least for now!

So, this week (today in fact) I relocated to the sit-stand desk for a 4 week trial period. Already I can see myriad benefits, and it’s only Day 1 so I’m sure there’ll be more as the trial progresses!

  • It could be my imagination but I feel like I am more productive.
  • I need to start keeping a record of it, but I’m sure I’m getting more steps in. Partly just moving around my desk to get things, and partly I leave my desk more often (eg to get something from my old desk, fill my water bottle) because I’m already standing – it just seems easier somehow!
  • I’m also doing leg exercises eg calf raises, marching on the spot, to stop my legs from getting stiff and the blood pooling around my ankles! I have not made a conscious effort to do this, my body just does it naturally because that’s what it needs to do! I can do this kind of thing while still working, whereas when I was at a sitting desk, I’d have to stop what I was doing to do some stretches/exercises.
  • I find it a lot more comfortable, not having to sit down for most of the day! I do have the option of sitting if and when I need to – the desk height is adjustable, so literally I just have to press a button. But I’d prefer not to, if I can avoid it. I think I’ll just use sitting as a brief rest break, and spend most of my time at my desk standing. But it’s only early days, of course!

A A A comparison of my steps today (bottom) versus last Tuesday. The overall count was similar, but I’m certain there were more steps during my workday today. Especially between 12 and 4 (circled) where I was standing continuously!

Do you use a standing desk, and if so, how do you find it? Have you had experience with both sitting and standing jobs, and which do you prefer? And, especially if you do spend a lot of your workday sitting, how do you try to incorporate more activity into your day?