Monday, February 18, 2013

Walking in the Workplace

Yesterday, when Fay was here, she mentioned that she works at a stand-up desk in her D.C. office. I've always known Fay to be an active person--when we get together, we almost always go for a long walk together while we catch up. But I was still impressed to hear that she requested a stand-up desk. The best part: After Fay got her desk, she noticed other people in the office requesting the same thing! Health is contagious. Like the plague.

We got to chatting about how much our jobs can affect our health. Since I'm a teacher, I can easily spend almost the entire day standing and walking. Terry, on the other hand, finds himself sitting at a computer or sitting in meetings nine to ten hours per day. Even an intense, hour-long workout can't undo all that sitting.

This article from The New York Times outlines some of the recent health concerns about sitting, "even for people who are quite active when they’re not sitting down." Check out the full article, "Taking a Stand for Office Ergonomics," by Steve Lohr

Today I asked Terry to take my FitBit to work, just to see exactly how much (or how little?) he moves. The result? 

1,475 steps. Yikes! (Note: This total does not include our workout.)

If your job is considered a sedentary one, consider the following options for increasing your movement and improving your health.

Sit less at work.
  • Request a stand-up desk. Your office might even have policies in place already that make the transition super simple. Plus, like Fay, you could be responsible for setting an office trend, and then you'll be a hero, and they might give you an award. But at the very least you'll be sitting less.
  • Find excuses to get up: walk to your coworker's cubicle instead of e-mailing him, get in some face time with your boss by lingering outside her office like a creeper, set a timer to go off every 15 minutes and force yourself to get up each time (bonus: you'll annoy your annoying cubicle neighbor). Be creative.
  • Any time you don't have to be sitting, stand. If you're reading over some documents, talking on the phone, or writing with a pen/pencil (for those born after 1995, here is the definition of pen and pencil), stand or walk while you do it. It's more fun to walk, because if you run into things you'll draw attention to yourself (see first bullet point for possible outcomes). 
Find ways to be active throughout the day.
  • Be one of those people who brings tennis shoes to work and walks for 30 minutes at lunch. Extra points if you wear scrunch socks and polka dot tights like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl
  • Take the stairs. Even if you work on the 31st floor. (You'll look super professional all sweaty in your 9 am meeting. Trust me.)
  • Go to the bathroom/water fountain/fax machine/copier that's farthest away from you. My husband used to walk down four flights of stairs to use the restroom. I'm so proud. 
  • Walk or bike to and from work. In LA, dodging cars adds an extra workout and improves reflexes.
  • Walk to lunch. Even if you brought your lunch, walk to a park to eat it. Or walk while you eat it. Again, be creative.
  • Do laps during meetings. Especially if you aren't the one speaking, I'm sure no one will mind if you just walk/run/bike in circles around the conference table. (BLWB is not responsible for demotions or firings that may take place as a result of these suggestions.)
(Just FYI, I was totally sitting on the couch like a hypocrite when I wrote the first half of this post. Now I'm standing up at the kitchen counter. Let's proceed.)

Sit less once you get home.
  • If you have a treadmill, walk on it at a slow pace while you watch TV. (If you're like Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, you could eat pudding while you walk on the treadmill. No judgment here.)
  • Walk or bike to the grocery store and to complete your other errands.
  • In addition to your usual exercise, take a walk before or after work.
  • Instead of board games and TV, take your kids or your dog (or yourself) to the park in the afternoon.
Any tips for ways to stand or walk more at work?
If all else fails, get a box that's too small to be your desk, and then perhaps you'll be encouraged to get up more often.


  1. My stand up desk will be here in March and I can't wait! It will be the first in our office and my boss is planning to get one a few months later :)

  2. Definitely some great suggestions! One of my coworkers used to suddenly appear at my desk every so often throughout the day. When I'd ask him if everything was okay or if there was something he needed my help with, he'd say "no, just trying to get up and move a bit." Ah...perfect.

  3. ugh I always sit at work. it is so annoying! I need to move around more that is for sure!

  4. Haha, at my cobbled together standing desk while reading this! Very interesting NYT article. I NEED to start taking the stairs more-so easy, and I always get lazy.

  5. We just got a new stand up desk at my job!