How stepping away from my desk improved my productivity, increased my energy and healed my physical discomfort
Hi, my name is Rachel and I am a recovering all-day desk sitter. I spent 7 years of my life studying and practicing law, something which required a lot of time sitting. I never made the effort to spend time away from my desk during the work day: big mistake! Even before the age of 30, sitting all day had a very negative effect on my mind and body. If you're like me, most New Yorkers or really any work force warrior, the time to be physically active was limited to before or after work. I want to show you the enormous benefits of consciously taking even a small amount of time away from your desk chair, even if you spend the day bouncing on an exercise ball at your desk (and kudos to you if you do!).
Here's how my body reacted to all that sitting and stress (and I know I'm not alone here):
Unproductive and unhappy:
Unproductive and unhappy - this was not who I used to be! Productivity and happiness used to define me, but after sitting for hours at a time, it became easy to lose focus, energy and the ability to smile. I relied a lot on coffee - think 2-3 cups a day. This in turn caused me to be anxious, nervous, depressed and sleep-deprived. I was in a dangerous cycle: wake up, coffee, sit, lunch, coffee, sit, sit, exercise, sit on my couch, fall asleep late, start over the next morning. These work patterns and my mood patterns were in direct correlation with each other. In fact, according to the Association for Psychological Science, employees who sit for longer than six hours each day are more likely to have anxiety and depression.
25-year-old in a 65-year-old's body:
In law school, I started to develop sciatica. It was so bad at times that I had to call my mother to pick me up from school because my pain made walking unbearable. With huge amounts of massage, stretching and physical therapy, I would temporarily manage my condition. I did not realize that the sciatica in my back was directly correlated to the amount of time I was spending at my desk every day, so I kept going at the same pace in the same patterns. In my final year of law practice, I herniated a disc in my lower back. It was then that I woke up and realized the dangers of my sedentary lifestyle. Check out this helpful visual.
I was finally able to change this vicious cycle through incorporating yoga, mindfulness and other movement in segments to break up my work day. At my last legal job, I negotiated a lunch break of at least an hour and a half to make it to my yoga class. It helped keep me smiling, sane and pain free. I realized that this break was the best part of my day and that is when I decided to quit the corporate life and pursue a career in health, wellness and mindfulness.
You don’t need to quit your job like I did to pursue a happy and healthy life. But take it from me - if you don’t take the time to consistently step away from your desk, incorporate movement into your day, you're putting your health and wellness at risk. Your solution can start as simply as a 15 minute walk during your lunch break and a stretch in a conference room instead of your afternoon coffee break. Can you commit to going to sleep 30 minutes early 3 nights a week to make it to an early morning class? Sign up on our website for a free 10 minute vinyasa flow. Or the easiest solution of all - talk to your HR and set up a free Yoga Rx class and help your entire office feel better. We promise it's not as crazy as it sounds.