We’ve been preaching for years the importance of taking breaks while working at your desk. Most of those warnings have been about avoiding eye fatigue and pain in the neck, back, and joints.
But walking around also helps
Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found that when a person sits for six straight hours, vascular function is impaired. Most remarkable, they learned that simply by walking around the office for 10 minutes after a prolonged period of sitting, vascular health can be restored.
Also of note, during the study, the researchers compared the vascular function of 11 healthy young men before and after a period of prolonged sitting. So this is important for everyone – not only those of us with creaking joints or other health issues.
The study, “Impact of Prolonged Sitting on Lower and Upper Limb Micro- and Macrovascular Dilator Function,” was published this summer in Experimental Physiology, a peer reviewed journal.
It’s also in the movement
In an article last year, Dr, Joseph Mercola discussed how intermittent movement benefits one’s health, and how Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, talked about the hazards of chronic sitting during an interview:
“She explains that the human body deteriorates at a faster speed in anti-gravity situations, and, as it turns out, sitting for an extended period of time actually simulates a low-gravity type environment!
“Physical movements such as standing up or bending down, on the other hand, increase the force of gravity on your body. Again, anti-gravity environments speed up cellular deterioration, so the key is to disengage from this low anti-gravity situation as much as possible by standing up and moving about.”
Produce more by taking breaks
Not convinced yet that interrupting your work every so often is more important than keeping the flow going? In an enlightening post earlier this month (Produce More Content in Less Time With These 6 Science Backed Tactics ), none other than analytics expert Neil Patel wrote:
Breaks are not for the weak: It’s a brutal cycle. You don’t want to take a break because you want to spend more time writing to be more productive.
But when you do this, you fatigue faster, lose focus faster, and end up writing slower, which makes you even less productive.
In addition, sitting for long periods over the long term can cause back pain and even create deadly blood clots.
Ideally, you should take a short 2–5 minute break every 30 minutes. And don’t go without a break for longer than 60 minutes.
During this break, get away from the computer.
Get up and stretch, or do something that involves a bit of moving.
This is good for your physical health, but it’s also good for your productivity.
Studies have found that brief diversions from a particular task significantly improve focus in upcoming periods of work.
You can move it right there at your desk
Patel includes a chart of quick stretches to help reduce “desk fatigue,” but we’re taking it a step further. Writers-Editors Network members now have 15 very short videos to follow in the Resource Center. Here is a sample:
Here’s the entire Desk Movement video playlist:
- ankle circles
- butt kicks
- calf raises
- chair squats
- fit stability ball
- leg extensions
- ankle stretch
- chair twist
- head tilts
- leg circles
- leg lifts
- shoulder rolls
- toe taps
- wrist stretch
- standing ankle stretch
“As a former phys ed and movement ed teacher, this is music to my ears, and something I really needed. Have a few of my own things I do, but so easy to forget. I think we should all set a timer and at least stand up every hour; and now, do any/all of these, too.”
Gail added something important – “I work out every morning, plus add a dog-walk right after – but this ‘stuff’ needs to be in addition. It’s not really a fitness issue, but a physical and mental health thing!”
So set your timer for 60 minutes, and when it alerts you, stop for about 3 minutes and follow a couple of the videos. Go through each of these during the course of the day, and you will see a difference – in the way you feel and in your writing output.
For More Information:
NIOSH Science Blog: VHA’s Success with Increasing Movement at Work