Incorporating Healthful Movement into Your Social Media Work Day

Most people I know who work in communications and social media struggle at some point with weight concerns.  It’s one of the hazards of working in this industry: we spend a lot of our day in front of computers.

This is not good for our bodies.  We were not made to sit so much.  What do you do to counter-act the impact of sitting too much doing your work day?  What works for you?

Today, on NPR, there was an important health story about the dangers of sitting too much.  Evidently — even if you exercise and eat healthfully — the act of sitting for a great part of your day sends a message to your body’s metabolism to go into sleep mode!  This is a great article because it also presents several solutions.

So what can we do, in addition to adding at least 30 minutes of exercise to our day and eating healthfully?

Since most of my clients also spend most of their time in meetings, on the phone, and at their computer, I thought I would share this story, along with some tips that may help.

Get Out of Your Chair Frequently and Take Movement Breaks

When you’re working on something that requires a lot of concentration, like coding or building a website, or writing a social media policy, it can be very easy to get lost in the task while working on a computer.

Ideally, you should get up at least every hour and walk around and stretch.  So, it might look like this 45 minutes (maximum) on the computer, 10 minutes of walking around and stretching large muscles and back, 5 minutes for water.  But do what is right for you.  For you, you might need to move or do another task every 30 minutes.

I don’t know if I would remember this on my own. You can set up Yahoo alerts to send you an email notice (even with an alarm!) to remind you to take a break, if you find you are getting lost in your work.

If you work in an office building, you can take a quick brisk walk outside around the building (I used to do that when I worked at Red Cross) which also gives you some fresh air and Vitamin from sunshine.  Or if it’s cold or rainy, you can walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes.

When I worked at Red Cross, I noticed that the more movement breaks I took, the more productive I was when I started working again.  So don’t feel guilty about it.  It will probably benefit you and your employer more in the long run if you take a sufficient number of breaks than if you just keep plugging along.

If you work for yourself and you find you’re spending more time than you need on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can schedule that time for yourself (e.g., a quick check in the morning and one after work) or use a program like Rescue Time to help keep you focused.

Replace Your Office Chair With An Exercise Ball

You can buy a large exercise ball for less than $20, and use it as your desk chair.  Or you can buy a ball or ball cover intended for use as a chair in specialty catalogs.  Ball seats are great.  The action of sitting on a ball will automatically cause you to straighten your spine (I tend to hunch while sitting at a computer) and improve your posture.  It will also strengthen your core muscles somewhat (which support your back), as you are in increased motion.  Some people find it also increases their attentiveness and productivity.

If a ball chair is impractical for your office space, you can try a ball seat cushion.

Replace Your Desk With A Standing Desk (or use one part of the time)

I was intrigued by the idea of a standing desk when I learned it was being used for some special needs populations to improve concentration and provide for movement in the learning environment.  Well, guess what?  Lots of office workers and computer types are using it, too.  It might be for part of your day, or all of your desk time.  Check out this blog article for ideas on how to use a standing desk for your computer time.

Here is an inexpensive standing desk ($149) from Ikea that was recommended by the Harvard Medical School newsletter.

Take Your Calls Outside

If you work at home like I do, you may rely on a cell phone.  When the phone rings, I take most of my calls outside and walk around my yard, when I can.  If I have to get to my computer, it’s a quick sprint inside.

Walk and Talk

Many office buildings that I know of, particularly in Virginia, are situated near some nice walking trails.  The ones in Fairview Park are particularly nice.  This made me think: not every meeting has to take place in a conference room.  If you’re meeting with one or two people, why not walk and talk at the same time?  Think about the advantages: not only are you walking, but there are fewer distractions (from the phone or other co-workers) and people tend to relax in outdoor settings.  Think about golf!

No, you can’t use a PowerPoint or take notes, really. But there must be times — like when you’re listening to someone describe a business problem and you’re proposing a variety of solutions — when a walking meeting would be just right.

I read somewhere once that  in discussions with their partners, men tended to open up more, be less defensive, and be more communicative when walking than when seated.  I don’t know if that is true, but I do remember that if I had anything important to discuss with my husband, I would first ask him to walk with me on the bike trail, and then I would bring it up during our walk, and those talks were always more productive than our dinner table talks.  So I think it’s worth a try.

Get Creative with Your Movement Breaks

I was talking to a young man this weekend who worked at Five Guys.  We both admitted we loved the fries but couldn’t eat them any more.  He showed me a picture of himself and talked about his impressive weight loss program.  What worked for him was not only eating more healthfully and working out, but also incorporating movement throughout his day.  He told me when he reads or studies, he reads two pages, then he gets up and does 10 crunches.  Then he reads two more pages and he gets up and does 10 push-ups.

What works for you?

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on April 25, 2011, in Client/Agency Relationship and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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