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  • 05.08.13

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.

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

This is a thing: Sedentary Death Syndrome.

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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]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.

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