Justin Feldman, Doctor of Physical Therapy
Owner of Feldman Physical Therapy and Performance in LaGrange and Fishkill
Too often office work means hours of desk duty, where too many of us spend the bulk of our weekdays sitting in front of a computer, tap, tap, tapping away. Keeping still to focus on work might move projects along, but according to the American Heart Association, too much sedentary behavior can increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death. Yikes. Thankfully, our client and guest blogger, Justin Feldman, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Feldman Physical Therapy and Performance in LaGrange and Fishkill, shares ways to step up sedentary workweeks.
As a physical therapist when I first meet a new patient, I like to get to know the individual as a person before I even talk about his or her injury. I want to know who my patients are and what they enjoy, so that I can get a full picture of their life, before I worry about what hurts. But when people walk into my office, often they immediately become embarrassed when I ask them about their daily routine, their fitness routines and their daily work tasks. I’m not sure what it is about our society that makes some people feel badly about spending time with their family or at work, but I’ve found that people quickly become ashamed because, for instance, they have young kids and don’t have the time to dedicate to exercise that they used to. Or they get embarrassed that they work hard and often find themselves sitting at their desks for the majority of their day. I often spend the next few minutes of our talk trying to make them feel comfortable and realize that they are not to blame for their ailments, and that working hard, and spending time with their family is something to be proud of, not something to feel badly about.
I like to blame the internet for this, mostly because it cannot fight back, and it’s a really easy target. Social media is ablaze with sayings like, “sitting is the new smoking” or “exercise 30min/day or else”. Then, should you click on any of those links, your next Google results are sure to be lined with ads for standing desks, treadmill desks and all sorts of other contraptions that may or may not work, but that you most certainly don’t need. But man, will they make you think you do.
I’m here to tell you there are some simple and easy things you can add to your daily routine that will help improve your health and help you feel better—and that you don’t need to be ashamed of. Start by drinking your body weight in ounces of water each day. If you think you sit too much and don’t get up to walk around enough, this will fix that really quickly. Next, cut out the email. If you work in an office and need to tell someone something, go tell the person and if you need a paper trail of the talk, email a recap of the meeting to the person. This will make you get up, help you get to know your colleagues better and might even prevent a misunderstanding. Next, if you have regular meetings, make them standing meetings. You will find that they’ll go faster and smoother that way, plus you and everyone else involved will get more standing time.
I know what you are thinking; but what about a standing desk? Standing desks are great, but not always an option for people. Also, if you talk to people with a job that requires them to stand all day and ask them if there was one thing they wanted, they will say, “a chair”. So, if you do get a standing desk, I always recommend one that also lets you sit, because standing is great, but you need a break, too. Treadmill desks are great, too, but only if you want to let everyone in the office create an under/over pool on how many times you fall each day.
I also like to share two things that people can do at home that are easy and fit into their day without requiring a lot of effort. The first is to stand on one leg when brushing your teeth, using a different leg for your top and bottom teeth. I’m told it’s best to brush your top and bottom teeth for 60 seconds each, so that will not only improve your balance but maybe your teeth, too. My other suggestion is that when you watch TV or read a book at night to relax, do it while sitting on the floor. Getting up and down off the floor frequently is a great way to make your body more effective at moving your own body weight. Also, as we age falls become a major health risk, and well, if your body is accustomed to going down to the floor and getting up, a fall is no big deal.
Don’t get me wrong, daily exercise is important, but it is also important to start small and set goals that you can reach to help keep you moving forward. Also, even if you work out every day, you cannot undo a day’s worth of bad habits with 60 minutes at the gym. Give these things a try and send us a photo of your next standing meeting!