Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fitness, Even At Work: Optimizing My Workstation For a Healthier Body

Back in March, Tim Ferriss (the 4-Hour Work Week/4-Hour Body guy) posted about Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Fat and Increase Productivity at Work Tim usually writes about body hacks and a lot of self-experimentation topics that I usually end up trying (I have a VERY understanding wife). The article made a great case on the negative affects of sitting down all day:

Unfortunately, most people aren’t so lucky, and ass-in-chair time has costs:
- As the New York Times recently wrote, sitting kills.
- In a study that tracked over 17,000 Canadians for 12 years, researchers found that people who sat more had a higher risk of death, independent of whether or not they exercised.
- According to a 2003-2004 U.S. survey, Americans spend over half of their time awake sitting.
- In an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak found that “after four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals” that cause the genes regulating glucose and lipose levels in the body to shut down.

From a fitness perspective, sitting all day can have a negative effect as well. Sitting all day can make your hip flexors short and tight and cause your butt muscles to become weak and less tone. These two components are essential for a good, mechanically sound running gait. I would also say most people don't sit properly and develop a slouch over time which isn't great for the back either.

Changing my cubicle to be "healthier/more fitness-oritented" seemed like an easy thing to try out so I used the article as a guideline to hacking my workplace. My friend Laura over at posted a pic of her office set-up and an infographic on the negative effects of sitting which reminded me to report back in with my set-up. Here is what I have going on (picture of the set-up at the top)

  • Dual Monitor Set-up. This has nothing to do with fitness other than productivity gains having a two monitors at work.
  • The laptop/monitor are propped on copy paper boxes. (center top) I think I need a little more height so that the monitors are a little more eye-level. Ultimately, I'll probably get something from Ikea as I have long term concerns about an accident happening with a laptop/monitor sitting on a card board box but for now, it works.
  • To help ease the strain of standing long periods, I purchased an anti-fatigue mat. (center bottom) Right now, I pretty much stand all morning, sit-down for lunch/mid-afternoon, and stand the rest of the day. Standing at work has its benefits but like anything, standing too much isn't really great either because the increased pressure from standing too much could affect the veins in your legs. Like anything else, moderation and balance
  • Speaking of balance, I have a balance board (lower right hand corner) that I'll stand on periodically through the day. I'll usually stand on it during conference calls or stand on it whenever I need a break away from the computer. This provides a nice  passive core/stability exercise. Right now I'm working on doing air squats while balancing. I can only do one right now...
  • When I do sit, I sit on an exercise ball. My core gets a little bit of an extra workout and I will randomly bust out a few crunches when I'm on a conference call and don't feel like going on the balance board. I have not run into an issue like this:
  • Not related to my cubicle, but helpful to standing all day, I changed the shoes I wear to work. I have both brown and black pairs of the Vivobarefoot Ra which is a zero drop, low to the ground shoe which actually looks like "professional" shoes. These things are ultra comfortable (esp with the wider forefoot) and not having a heel makes it easier on my back standing over a prolonged amount of time. If I wanted to, I could probably run a few miles in these shoes no problem.
  • For the astute eye, yes, that is a Zeo Mobile Sleep Monitor (center right) but I was just updating the firmware, not tracking my sleep at work :)
  • For the even more astute eye, yes, that is a Blackjack Strategy table on my white board. Really, I'm not a gambling addict...
So that's my set-up. I'm two months in and no issues have really come up. I do get questioned here and there when someone new comes to the office and wondering what it is all about but I usually downplay it as just wanting to "change things up." The biggest upgrade will be getting that mini-table from Ikea to replace the boxes. I'll post another pic so you can see how it looks.

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