Killer effects of prolonged sitting & what I am doing about it

As human beings are not designed as “sitting creatures” but today unless you are into sports or in sales, where you are constantly travelling/ running around, today’s sedentary life and the deadlines driven work schedule makes many of us sit long hours without any awareness of what harm it is doing to us.

download (1)Type “ill effects of continuous sitting” on Google and there will be a series of articles/ links on the research done on this topic.

How Sitting All Day Is Damaging Your Body and How You Can Counteract It: Lifehacker

Why sitting too much is bad for your health: NHS UK

Info graphic on 9 ways prolonged sitting can harm us: Times of India

Now, the problem is, you and me open all these links, skim through the articles, feel sorry for what YOUR sitting can cause to YOUR health & do NOTHING about it. So today I am writing on the ill effects of sitting long hours, damage it can do to your health & sharing on how I have tried to adjust my workstyle to fight it out.

One widely used alternative is to create a standing desk: But that is not possible always, especially if you are working for someone & suddenly one day you say I want to stand & work. However, if you are an entrepreneur & have your own peaceful corner to work at your home office/ work, it is possible & following are a couple of helpful perspectives you can get on creating standing desks:

 My Standing Desk Experiment: Zenhabits blog

DIY Standing Desk: Freefincal.com

My experiments with taking short breaks 

Looking into the research that has been done, one thing that is coming out is that it is not about the prolonged sitting – too much standing is also harmful in the same measure as too much sitting. The real issue is staying in the same posture (standing/ sitting) for prolonged periods that results in concentration of blood flow in some parts of body & restricts it, thereby causing long term problems.

Though there may be a good merit in creating a standing desk, I have not gone for that option, though I have my own office & there are no restrictions in doing it. The strategy I have adopted to counter this is a simple rule: Take 5 mn. break after each 30 mn. of activity

Now, in the hustle of work, there is a good tendency to just get lost & forget all about time. It is here that a automated timer known as e.ggtimer.com  is helping me a great deal. E.ggtimer is a super simple URL based timer where you have to just specify the seconds/hours in the URL bar (e.g. e.ggtimer.com/30minutes) & press enter: automatically, a countdown timer starts in big black font filling the entire screen & when the time is over, there is a beep with a message “Time Expired”.

So, every day, as I sit for work, first thing I do is to simply type: e.ggtimer.com/30minutes in the URL bar. A clock starts running & after the 30 minutes, there is a beep & message “Time Expired”. Once the 30 mn. period is over, in the same browser, I just change the numbers ‘30” to “5” & press enter. So, another timer for 5 mn. start. And this 5 mn. is my break time.

In my break time, I make it a point to stretch my body, walk around, drink water & hydrate myself, go & pee (yes, I don’t know about you but that’s a problem with me: when I am engrossed in work, I just don’t have the time to go & pee, and that’s so harmful). Other ways to use the break time is to make a quick call at home to know all’s well, going up for a walk to a nearby kirana shop & a couple of “alpenliebe” (yes, I love boiled confectionary:) – anything that makes me move!

Yes, I agree that sometimes in those 5 mn., there is a strong impulse to go back to work, especially if there is something very engrossing I am doing. It is at that point that I remind myself that I am doing this for my health & well being & I HAVE to wait till 5 mn. get over.

Also, to further ease things out, I have created 2 bookmarks in my browser: first is for 30 mn. (e.ggtimer.com/30minutes) & second one for 5 mn. (e.ggtimer.com/5minutes). Now, I don’t even have to type these words everytime. I just click the bookmark & timer starts then & there.

As a result of this experiment, I feel much better, more productive & far less tired after a hard day’s work. Also, the timer has helped me to FOCUS & keep away unnecessary distractions. So, if it is my work timer that is running, I don’t take calls, do not check social media updates etc.etc. Once its break time, I can catch up with all these things. In this context, also read this article by Robin Sharma on increasing productivity, where he has listed working with a timer as one of the ways. Also, on a broader level, it ties well with my overall goal for this year to become fighting fit & come back in shape.

Long sitting hours will not go away, nor will the deadlines & pressures. However, we have to care about our health as well because only if we are fit, we’ll be able to work, earn properly, fall ill less frequently, and secure our family’s financial & overall well being. There definitely will be better ways to do it e.ggtimer is one way. Please share your thoughts & feedback.