Tips and tricks to stay healthy when you work at a desk

Researchers have found that after 20 minutes of sitting still the body is starting to produce toxins, that you are somehow poisoning yourself and that exercising even every day is not enough to counteract the effect. Here are two methods to avoid that and some other ideas to make your life better.

How to avoid sitting on your butt for more than 20 consecutive minutes?

Install a standing desk.

When I was living in Lausanne I had installed a standing desk in my office (picture above) and I was only using a bar stool to sit once in while in order to rest. I had a standard Ikea-style stool but I have been told that there are better options like those unbalanced stools.

Now that I travel it’s really difficult to find a standing desk so I use another method, that you can also use at your corporate desk.

UPDATE: Apparently IKEA is now selling standing desks, you should go buy one :)

Adopt the Pomodoro technique

And set an interval timer on 20/10 minutes intervals. I use the Gymboss interval timer, which is perfect for that job and that I can also use for high intensity interval trainings, see later.

Setting a 20/10 interval means you work 20mn then you do 10mn of something else. Now, of course, the idea is not to take those 10mn and have a coffee and a smoke while sitting somewhere else…

One point worth noting is that nothing is preventing you from adopting a standing desk and the Pomodoro technique. It’s actually a good idea and if I could I would.

What to do during your 10mn pauses

Here is a few ideas for activities you can do, some of them I got from the SuperBetter website:

  • Do any chore. Wash the dishes, vacuum clean a room, get the trash out. Anything that takes 10mn or less and have you stand.
  • Exercise. Do push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, whatever (see the list of workouts for exercises)
  • Push the volume up and dance to your favorite song.
  • Go outside and have a 10mn walk around your bloc, chat with your neighbors, observe the world.
  • Call your SO or a friend (but stand up with your phone)

Other tricks

Four times a week, do a morning workout. You can choose between those:

The first 3 workouts do not require any equipment so are ideal for travelers or people with an excuse. HIIT workouts often require equipment but can usually be adapted.

If you do work at home or you have some facilities at your workplace then you can disperse various pieces of workout equipment around the place, ideally in the middle of the way. The idea is that each time you come cross them you do a series. In my apartment I had installed a pull-up bar in the door frame of my office and the deal was that each time I passed the door I had to do as many pull-ups as I could. In a few weeks I went from barely 3 to 7 then 12. You can also put a sand bag in the kitchen and weights in the toilets ;)

Every day, take a 20mn nap (not longuer) about 6 or 7 hours after you woke up. You should sleep better at night and for a shorter period thus actually having more awake time.

What about you? Do you have tips and trick for living a healthier life? Would you mind sharing them in the comments?

During the writing of that post I had two 10mn pauses, I did 20 push-ups and 20 reverse push-ups, did my dishes, put out the trash and went out and watched the butterflies in my garden. I also went to see the hotel staff to ask why the internet was not working anymore, and since they had no clue I went for a massage before I can actually publish this post :)

UPDATE 2013-08-16Flikli recently published a nice little video about posture: Office Posture Matters: An Animated Guide

This post is part of the second “Back to Blogging” challenge initiated by Stephanie Booth.

One thought on “Tips and tricks to stay healthy when you work at a desk

  1. Stephanie Booth

    I have “reversed” my meals: big meal in the morning (spaghetti bolo or the like) and snackish dinner in the evening. Better sleep, and less hungry all day. As for exercise, I still do judo and want to get back on my exercise bike but am having trouble building them into my routine. I plan to get going with Body by You over the next months, it seems very good.


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