How to Survive Sitting All Day

Although it’s “just a desk job,” working in an office can wreak absolute havoc on our bodies.

If you’re somebody who spends all day at a desk and computer (which I’m guessing applies to a majority of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion), you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Whether it’s lower back pain, wrist pain, a really tight neck, or a lack of mobility, when we spend all day at a desk to pay the bills, our bodies often get stuck picking up the tab.

What can we do to counteract this office life we have to live?

Although I’ve done some crazy things like exercise around the world, most of my time is spent sitting at a desk for 10+ hours a day, connecting with readers, writing articles, and watching stupid cat videos on YouTube.

I feel like I’ve cracked the code for staying limber despite sitting all day, and I want to share it with my fellow desk-dwellers!

Set your workspace up to succeed

bad monitor desk

If you work a desk job, you probably spend more time at your desk than you do at anything else in your life.

And yet, that time is often spent sitting in a chair that’s too low, with a desk that’s too high, and our necks bent down looking at a screen at an angle that makes us feel like Quasimodo.

That can result in all sorts of nasty stuff, like eyestrain, shoulder pain, back pain, arm pain, wrist pain, and neck pain.

Desk jobs might not seem physically taxing, but they can certainly cause us some physical problems. If you’re going to level up your office life, it’s time to do a desk audit.

So let’s start with setting your desk chair at the proper height so you can type without scrunching your shoulders up. I swear, 90% of desk/chair combos, in offices or in coffee shops have this ratio wrong.

You want to sit in a chair at a height where you can sit with your shoulders relaxed and pulled back, you’re sitting up tall, and your forearms are parallel to the ground or or lower, meaning you don’t need to reach up to your keyboard, nor shrug your shoulders.

I can tell when I work at a desk that’s the wrong height, and you probably can too: my shoulders shrug up, I get tense, and my neck bothers me for the next few days.

So, set your desk at the right height for you!

1. PICK A GREAT CHAIR:

You probably spend more than a third of your existence at a desk chair, so do what you can to make sure you’re setting in a chair that is not destroying your spine!

Last year, in an effort to fix my back issues, I bought a great desk chair (the Herman Miller chair). Honestly, it’s been fantastic, and my back feels great sitting in it for extended periods of time. But, I know it’s incredibly pricey.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a great chair (unless you can afford it) – you simply need a chair that has an adjustable height so you can set it so your feet are comfortably on the floor, a solid cushion to sit on, and good lower back support.

If your company supplied you with a crappy office chair, ask for the money to buy a good one (“it’ll improve my productivity!”), and head to an office supply store and try out a bunch of chairs. If they won’t pay for it, consider making the upgrade yourself.

A quick search on Amazon revealed this chair that has the best reviews ever – not bad for $150!

2. SET YOUR MONITOR AND DESKTOP PROPERLY:

If you work with a laptop, you are spending most of your day hunched over a tiny keyboard and trackpad.

Even if you work with a desktop computer, it’s certainly possible the monitor is not high enough for you to be able to not have to tilt your head down to look at it.

You want the height of your monitor to be such that you can look straight ahead and not have to adjust your neck angle to view the screen.

After spending a few years hunched over a laptop, I fixed my posture by adjusting where my eyes have to look by drastically raising the height of my monitors. Just raising my viewing angle was enough to get me to stop slouching, I no longer shrug my shoulders for hours, and my spine/back/shoulders/neck no longer hate me!

You don’t need anything fancy. I even just added some books to get the right height:

Desktop Set up

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to change your setup, and I’ve found that the inexpensive solutions above were well worth the money invested. Feel free to prop your monitor up with whatever you have around.

For laptop users, a separate keyboard and mouse can alleviate a lot of the “cramped” feelings and prevent you from ending up hunched over a laptop.

IF YOU WANT TO REALLY NERD OUT: check out this cool site from Ergotron (note: not a member of the Autobots). Simply put in your height and it can help you determine the height of your chair, keyboard, and monitor.

DeskSetUp

 

Now, if you have Quad Desk, or a Dwight Schrute exercise ball, you will probably have a different set of problems on your hands.

This should get you started with setting your desk up to win. But what about the rest of the day when you’re not sitting?

Staying limber in the office

cat stretch

Along with having a properly constructed office or cubicle, there are a few other things you can do to combat officitis:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – don’t stay in the same position for hours upon hours! Studies suggest the best plan for prolonged spinal health is to consistently alter your work environment – move around, stand when possible, sit…just don’t sit in the same position for 8 straight hours!

Set a timer every twenty minutes, and get up and do something! Take a lap around the office, do some shoulder rolls, neck rolls, or twists. I use a program called “focus booster” that pings me every 20 minutes to get up and do something (take a lap around NF HQ – my apartment – or do a quick stretch).

If you have your own office, or you work in a cubicle and don’t mind getting some funny looks, feel free to try some of the following:

The Couch Stretch: because I’m on my ass all day, my hip flexors tend to get tight. So I make sure to do a two minute-couch stretch every single day to help open up my hips:

The Thoracic Bridge Stretch (Hat tip to my buddy James Clear for finding this):

Consider dropping down into a basic body weight Grok Squat:

Own your office space

workspace desk

To answer your final question: you do not NEED a standing desk, even though the internet has a LOT to say about sitting all day.

I often stand when doing basic tasks like checking email or chatting with Team NF, but I really struggle with writing creatively while standing, so I’m almost ALWAYS seated for article writing.

If you ARE interested in a standing desk, we’ve actually already written a whole article about it on Nerd Fitness a few years back, but most of the ergonomic advice from the regular chair carries over.

We are all products of our environment, and by making small subtle changes to our batcaves we can set ourselves up to win.

I’d love to hear from you –

How have you combatted the evil forces of officitis?

How have you altered your working space to set yourself up to be healthy?

-Steve

NF_Logo_Large PS: Speaking of mobility, we just announced Nerd Fitness Yoga coming out later this month! Sign up for updates to get some cool bonuses and be the first to learn more about it!

PPS: How I made it this far without an Office Space reference is mind-boggling. even quoted that movie in my graduation speech. So, here you go: down with TPS reports!

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  • Jesa Balbin

    How long to survive from sitting all day? I moved a lot. Like a lot every 5 minutes 😀
    Just wondering if someone is looking for a workspace/workstation http://cheapgadgetsstore.com/work-station/

  • Sarah McIlvaine

    These stretches are the best! I started doing yoga to help with my lower back pain and the three stretches I have found myself doing every day are those in the videos! Really great selection. I also recommend the happy baby pose.

  • Barbara Saunders

    Thinking doesn’t have to happen sitting down at all. I’m a writer. I know that sometimes the thinking that doesn’t happen in front of the screen/blank sheet never makes it out. But there’s a whole lot of thinking that does. No reason not to take phone calls standing. No reason not to think through plans on a walk with a notepad and sit down only to capture them. One of the prime reason I hate working in office buildings: this chained-to-the-desk expectation. In a full work day at home, I’m not literally at the desk for more than half of it.

  • Daniel

    Great article with some really good advice. Thanks. Dan

  • Tracy Cater

    Lower back pain has been a serious problem to me for years, I could not do my daily job properly, I have used different medication and therapy, but the pain so still there, Then I got the contact of a Doctor ( Dr Benson) from the Internet, I contacted him, and made him understand my problem. then he sent me the medication which I took for one month and I was completely cured, now I feel no pain in my back and also my waist. I can move around and do all my daily work. you can contact the doctor who helped me on drbenson833@gmail.com

  • Mohammad Arshad

    how i can adjust my chair ..it should be high or it should be low ?

  • Great stuff! The most overlooked bit I think is setting up the desk properly. I cringe at so many people in my office when I see how they have it all set it up horribly. I can’t tell them as they just don’t to know! Maybe I’ll send them this article 🙂 Here’s me sitting https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0f70beaa8129c151511cea13100c314248b789904956d9fcd8de142e4f1fa5d6.jpg (but I stand most often!)

  • Jenny Bronson

    Blink your eyes regularly and it would helps to stop eye pain. Never sleep on our stomach because it causes neck pain also.

  • Lewis Vinson

    Setting up an adjustable desk in my workplace helped me a lot to get rid of my lower back and neck pain. When I didn’t have an adjustable stand- up desk, I used to stand up and stretch my limbs. Doing this will help me to reduce the negative effects of sitting for long hours. Still, when I have a Stand- up desk, I get up every hour and walk around: even if it is just for a short time.

  • Hannah Butt

    Amazing article!

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