Fast Company

To Be Healthier, Happier, And More Productive, Stand Up From Your Desk Right Now

Spending all day sitting at your desk does bad things to your body. Like, really bad. If you must sit for work, the proper posture and breathing can help. Here's how.

This is a thing: Sedentary Death Syndrome.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, sitting for hours can cause a range of diseases. Mladen Golubic, medical director for the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute, says that sitting for hours can cause "anything from lower back pain to high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity."

Sitting: the new smoking

As we've discussed before, the healthiest--and most productive--work days involve a palette of postures, from sitting to standing to walking. And as Fast Company contributor Nilofer Merchant recently argued on the TED stage, sitting is the new smoking--which is why, correspondingly, you should turn your meetings into walk-n-talks.

But what if you have to sit?

Dr. Golubic stresses the effect of posture on the way you breathe: slumping, it turns out, can be as oxygen-stifling as email. To breathe more deeply--and thus have more energy and focus--Golubic says to maintain "relaxed, straight sitting," where your core is strong, your spine is erect, and your shoulders are active but not tensed. It reminds me of instructions on meditation--the Buddhist tradition talks about how your spine should be "like a stack of coins" as you sit, which serves as a nice image for the pliant yet orderly structure of your back.

To keep the right posture, mind the dot

To get your spine properly stacked, sit away from the slump-promoting back of your chair with your feet placed firmly on the ground. (Though this writer likes to cross his feet beneath him, we'll defer to Dr. Golubic's expertise.) The good doctor likes to give his patients a blue dot to affix on their computer screens--a little reminder to sit up straight, get enough stretching in, and breathe like you mean it.

Burning Question: Why Sit Up Straight?

[Image: Flickr user Raymond Zoller]

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3 Comments

  • ana wahyuni

    This is so true, I've just injured my back because I sit too long and no exercise. Two weeks therapy with Chiropractor and takes 2 months for full recovery. We just forget and take for granted the air we breathe, the body we used, and the peace of our mind.

  • Greg Knighton

    Having meetings with multiple people with walk and talks can be sort of difficult. Another good option is using a standing height conference table. This will allow you to have meetings with multiple people standing up. There aren't a ton of companies offering this type of product yet, but we have from NewHeights on our site. They are super cool and definitely going to be the way of the future. http://www.beyondtheofficedoor...