Studies have shown that extended hours of sitting every day can contribute to some real health problems, and not just on your bottom. A meta-analysis showed that sitting for eight or more hours per day contributed to health risks on par with smoking. Furthermore, sitting for extended periods is often associated with a generally sedentary lifestyle, which can put you at an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is less of a disorder and more a series of symptoms that can degrade your overall health, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased body fat around the abdomen and waist, and high triglyceride and cholesterol levels. All of these symptoms together can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
While you may not be able to escape your office job, you can still burn some calories and stay active at work. How to burn calories at your desk is easier than it looks! Whether you want to offset the effects of sitting or maintain your physical fitness, here are some tips on how to burn more calories at work.
1. Use a standing desk.
Standing desks have become increasingly popular as a means of combatting the effects of sitting. They give you the opportunity to maintain your usual workflow while taking away your chair. They come in all shapes and sizes to custom fit your height. They can also be used to aid in alleviating computer neck pain.
One of the biggest assumptions with standing desks is that they burn more calories, which makes sense. Standing up naturally activates more muscles, which then requires more calories. Studies on the exact calorie burn involved with standing and sitting are limited. One study from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that subjects burned about 80 calories per hour when sitting. When standing, subjects burned about 88 calories per hour on average.
That may not be the most mind-blowing difference, but those calories can add up. It’s also worth noting that everyone burns calories at a different rate based on their metabolism, so your caloric burn might be higher. More importantly, even if sit stand desks do not drastically increase your calorie usage, they are known to improve your posture and reduce the risk of back and shoulder pain.
Make sure that you have plenty of cushioning for your feet, which may mean investing in an anti-fatigue mat. You should also take plenty of breaks or consider alternating between sitting and standing to get the best out of your standing desk without also hurting your legs.
2. Take a walk.
Schedule short breaks into your schedule throughout your day to take a quick walk. The study on standing desks also showed that walking can burn upwards of 210 calories per hour. That means that taking a half-hour walk can burn about 100 more calories per day than sitting. You can burn even more calories by increasing your pace or intensity. For added encouragement and social bonding, get some of your coworkers together and start a walking club.
3. Use a treadmill desk or pedal desk
A treadmill desk combines the benefits of a standing desk and walking, allowing you to burn even more calories without actually leaving your work pile. However, walking for eight hours per day may not be the best idea as it could lead to problems in your knees and ankles over the long term. Alternately, you can try a pedal desk or a desk bike, which is a desk with a stationary bike or elliptical machine.
4. Try a yoga ball.
Many office workers have turned to yoga balls as an alternative to the average desk chair. The actual science behind the number of calories burned when sitting on a yoga ball is inconsistent. Early studies found that sitting on a yoga ball or exercise ball burned about 4.1 more calories than sitting in an office chair. In contrast, other studies suggest a calorie burn 10 percent higher than sitting on a typical flat surface. The extra caloric burn may come from a mix of fidgeting (or dynamic sitting) and using more of your leg muscles while you sit.
5. Do some simple strength training exercises.
Even if you aren’t using it as an alternative chair, a yoga ball can come in handy if you want to do some simple strength training exercises at your desk. However, you don’t need a yoga ball to give your muscles a bit of a workout. Some simple strength workouts include:
- Chair lunges – Take one step away from your chair. Place your left foot on the seat behind you. Keep your chest up and bend your right knee to bring yourself down. Extend your right knee to bring yourself back up. Continue with as many reps as you want and repeat with the other leg.
- Desk pushups – Place your hands at the edge of your desk and walk your feet back until your body forms a diagonal line. Bend your elbows, lowering your chest to your desk. Push up to return to starting position and repeat.
- Wall sit – Place your back straight against a wall and lower your body down until your knees bend at a 90-degree angle. Hold this until you can’t.
6. Use the stairs.
If you work in a multilevel office building, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. When you need to use a bathroom or drinking fountain, consider using one on a different floor to burn some extra calories.
7. Try some office yoga.
If space allows, try some simple yoga stretches. This can burn calories while working your muscles, improving your balance, and releasing some excess tension in your joints.
- Seated crescent moon – Lift your arms over your head, touching your palms together and spreading out your fingers. Lean to one side, holding the stretch for three breaths before moving to the other side. You should feel this along your spine and trunk.
- Shoulder opener – Stand a few feet in front of your desk, far enough away that your hands can reach. Bend down, allowing your head to drop between your arms, allowing for a stretch in the shoulders.
- Seated twist – Sitting with your back straight and tall, breathe in, and breathe out. On the exhale, twist your upper body to the right, aiming to twist more from your abdomen than your back. Hold for a few breaths before returning to the center and repeating on the other side.
8. Do some cardio.
If your heart could use a quick burst of cardio, do some jumping jacks, or keep a jump rope handy. Just 15 minutes of jumping rope can burn about 200 to 300 calories. It’s also a workout that engages nearly all major muscle groups.
9. Lift and tap while you sit.
When you are sitting down, do some toe taps, and calf raises. Sit up straight, keep your heel on the floor, and tap your foot. Repeat with your other foot. For calf raises, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and raise your heels as far up as possible. These won’t burn monumental calories on their own, but they can help to tone your legs and get some blood flowing to your legs.
10. Take a break.
Whether you sit or stand at your desk, make sure you take frequent breaks. The human body just was not designed to remain in any single position for hours on end. Once every hour, take a few minutes to get up, stretch, and move your limbs. Even just a walk to the office kitchen can be a big help to your body and mind.
You may not burn as many calories at your office as you do at the gym. However, with a little creativity, you can still improve your physical fitness and maintain your productivity and efficiency at the same time.