Ecommerce entrepreneurs sit. We sit a lot. Whether listing new products, answering customer e-mails, paying invoices, or doing research, we are on our butts in a chair pretty much all the time. This is literally taking years off our lives. The dangers of sitting are very real, and very scary.
The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study in 2010 that found men who sit 6+ hours per day (working, driving, watching TV, etc.), as compared to those who did not sit 6+ hours per day, were 18% more likely to die within the next 13 years. Want to get really freaked out? The percentage of women more likely to die within 13 years was 40%.
It gets worse. The American Heart Association released data in January of last year that sitting just 5 hours per day doubles the risk of heart failure in men.
Extended sitting is so dangerous because it contributes to health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and back and/or neck pain.
We all know being overweight is dangerous and we should exercise more, but somehow we never do. Based on these research results, I’ve personally had a “wake-up call” and made changes to improve my health and reduce the risk of my (formerly) sedentary lifestyle.
There are easy, small adjustments to our daily lives that can significantly mitigate the dangers of sitting, and many are free. What follows are some solutions which will reduce sitting time for you, the ecommerce entrepreneur.
Get up, stand up!
I’ll start with a free option. Redesign your workflow so that you are intentionally standing up every half-hour. Intersperse computer work with order pulling, prepare shipments, get the mail – whatever you can think of to make sure you stand up at regular intervals.
One of my colleagues frequently schedules our conference calls while he’s taking his daily walk (and tracking the walk, of course, on his iPhone app).
If getting away from the computer is simply not an option, you could invest in a standing desk.
I have two workstations in my home office, one where I can sit and another that is a standing desk (formerly a drafting table) which was a hand-me-down from my in-laws (free). Since I use a laptop in my office, I can easily move between the two work stations, standing when it’s reasonable and reducing my time sitting by as much as half in the average work day. Bob Villa has some great ideas on DIY standing desks.
Another way to stand more is to get (or build) a treadmill desk. Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, is credited with popularizing the treadmill desk as a way to stay active and reduce sitting at work. Now, you can buy a ready-made treadmill desk, but if you already have the treadmill there are ways to adapt it to work as a desk. Lifehacker gives easy instructions on how to build one, and I also found a Pinterest board dedicated to building treadmill desks with lots of options.
Get healthy with Tech
Wearable health tech is all the rage, and with good reason! Not only can these gadgets track everything from your steps, to your weight, to your heart rate, the built-in social networking features keeps you competitive with friends so you can encourage each other (or egg each other on, as the case may be).
I have two friends in different circles who invested in wearable health tech a little over a year ago. I have literally watched them transform in this time. Between them, they lost 100 pounds. This works.
If you are unfamiliar with wearable health tech, allow me to describe one such product – the FitBit Charge (retails for $129). It is a small, discrete black (or fashion colored) rubbery band you wear on your wrist.
During the daytime it will count your steps, like an old fashioned pedometer, and use this data to measure your activity level for the day and calories burned. It also measures your heart rate, which is a nice feature if you have a pre-existing heart concern. At night, it measures your restful sleep. It tells the time, too!
The device automatically synchronizes your data with your smart phone or computer (with a USB plug-in). There’s even a FitBit scale now that will upload your weight and calculate your BMI. I think the most exciting thing about this new technology is you can share all this data with your doctor and work together to be healthier.
Other popular health tech includes the Apple Watch (coming soon), Samsung Gear, and the Lenovo “Vibe Band”.
Yoga while you work
Did you know that you can exercise while sitting at your desk?
Simple desk yoga moves and basic stretching can easily be implemented while you go about your business. Exercising and stretching while you sit helps combat inactivity, and also reduces stress which is another contributor to serious health problems.
The Mayo Clinic has identified these common stress-related health effects:
Stress is an added health risk factor when we own and operate our own businesses. Doing simple chair exercises is a way to reduce stress while becoming more active, and it doesn’t have to disrupt your work flow. Anytime you are on hold to a customer service department, use your headset or a speakerphone and go into stress reduction mode while waiting.
There are two types of chair exercises you can do, either modified yoga or stretching. The Divine Caroline blog created a nice summary of simple yoga poses you can do from your desk with good visuals to make sure you are posed correctly. Healthline created an instructional slide show of “Deskercise” stretches last year; you can access it by clicking here.
Wiggle while you work
There are still times you will need to sit and work. You can make that time slightly less sedentary by switching out your office chair for an exercise ball chair. Have you ever sat on one of these things? It’s super fun. I was at a meeting at Meetup group in a Silicon Valley office building and some of the chairs in the conference room were exercise balls.
“What the heck?” I thought as I rolled up a seat. It was the most fun I’ve had at a business-oriented meeting.
When I got home, I ordered one for me and one for my husband (after I got my standing desk, the ball-chair went in the living room and I sit on it while watching TV).
I should warn you that the medical community is mixed in its opinion of the health benefits of these chairs. Melanie Pinola wrote an excellent article summarizing her experience in switching to an exercise ball chair, and she details the varied opinion from different facets of the medical community.
Walk to lunch
My mother-in-law was a librarian at a university. As with most large college campuses, the parking was about a 15 minute walk to the library. Because she was concerned with the health problems associated with sitting all day, she would intentionally leave her lunch in a cooler in the car so she was forced to walk for 30 minutes just so she could eat. Now that she’s retired, she still makes a point to take a “parking lot walk” on the days she isn’t walking to the grocery store.
Even if you work from home, this is a free and easy routine you can use to adapt a healthier lifestyle. Go for a half-hour walk through your neighborhood before you eat lunch (and then eat lunch standing up!).
If it’s too cold and snowy to walk, go out and shovel snow for a half hour. It won’t shovel itself! Just remember to stay warm and hydrated while you do.
Actually go to the gym! (or the Y)
My last suggestion is the one most people start with. I personally think it’s the absolutely most effective way to be healthier and combat the dangers of sitting. If you don’t shop around, it’s also one of the most expensive. I live in rural Indiana, and we have exactly two gyms downtown (one just opened within the year). The new gym charges $140 per month for individual memberships or $380 per month for a family membership.
The other gym is the good old “Y-M-C-A” (admit it – you just sang along). It has a complete fitness center with lap pool, and lots of classes and family activities as well. Membership at our Y? It’s $38 per month for an individual membership, or $55 for the entire family (plus a one-time joining fee of $60-90). The nice thing about our Y is they offer services of a nutritionist, a personal trainer, and even a massage therapist for just a fraction of what I would pay elsewhere. If you are lucky enough to have a Planet Fitness near you, my understanding is they only charge $10 per month!
If you do join a fitness center, make it a part of your daily routine so you will stick to it. Do you do your own shipping and drop-off at the post office every day? Go and exercise before heading home. Please remember, it’s important to consult with your physician before you begin any new exercise routine!