How to Sit Less and Feel Better

5 Ways to prevent and relieve the Negative effects of sitting

A stream of evidence has mounted in recent years about the negative impact that sitting can have on health, and how sitting at a desk all day can even undo the positive impact of a daily workout. What’s more, spending upwards of seven hours a day on our duffs weakens and tightens the hips, legs, and back, so that when we are able to break away for a run, we feel sore and achy. Unfortunately most people can’t avoid spending hours commuting in our cars, sitting in the office, and gazing at screens. Happily, there are easy steps you can take to counter all that sitting-down time to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your running.

Set yourself up for success. 

Take a look at the guidelines for deskwork stations and computers from the Occupational Safe and Healthy Administration. Make sure your computer screen is 20 to 40 inches away from where you’re sitting, and that the top of the monitor is at eye level, OSHA recommends.  You can also place a filter on your screen to reduce glare.

Walk your meetings. 

A study published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, found that  walking meetings boost creativity during the meeting and shortly afterwards. From a practical perspective, it gets people unglued from their mobile devices and elevate the heart rate so that they tune in. The walk-and-talk isn’t appropriate for all meetings, of course—a job interview, or a massive all-hands meeting would not work. But for a small group of employees, the walking meeting might get people more engaged, and be more productive.

Stand up at your desk.

Standing desks have become commonplace in most offices these days, and for good reason. A study published in the  October 2014 issue of Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting found that employees reported substantial improvements in comfort, health, workstation environment conditions and wellbeing with the ergonomic workstations. If you don’t have one, talk with your manager. As standing workstations have become more common, they’ve also become more affordable.

The water walk. 

Dehydration can drag down your workout. Athletes should aim to consume at least half their body weight in water each day to ensure that they’re well-hydrated when they start a workout. (So a 150-pound runner would aim to consume 75 ounces per day. ) But attempting  to chug a day’s worth of fluids immediately pre-run will lead to GI distress and unplanned pit stops. So it’s better to sip small sips throughout the day. Happily, the all-day-sipping will also induce you to move. Keep a water bottle by your desk and drink while you work. The bathroom breaks that naturally follow will build in some required movement breaks into each hour, especially as you go for refills. Pick a water fountain on another floor or far from your desk to maximize the refresh you get.

Stretch at your desk.

Sitting all day tightens the hip flexors—the muscles in front of the quads—which can limit the power and speed that you need to run your best. Tightness in the hips—which is where the running stride begins— can also lead to a cascade of other overuse injuries that can sideline your training. Set an alarm to sound at a time during the day that your energy tends to slump. At that time, get up and give those hip flexors a little relief. Kneel on one knee, and put your other foot forward with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Shift your pelvis forward, bend your front knee and tuck your glutes under until you feel a deeper stretch in the hip. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on each leg.

About Jen Van Allen

Jen has spent the past six years working as Special Projects Editor for Runner's World magazine, and writing stories for the magazine. She also has a book, The Runner's World Training Journal for Beginners, and contributes stories to The Portland Press Herald.