*Cue the theme song from Rocky*

Now, I want to hear you say it: “I’m a desk athlete!”

Not loud enough! “I’m a desk athlete!”

Now like you believe it! “I’M A DESK ATHLETE!”

That’s better, now I’m starting to believe you!

In the words of the great (albeit fictional) Rocky Balboa, “the desk ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”

Ok so maybe I added the desk bit, but you get the point. It’s up to you to take hold of your wellbeing in your workspace, and you can do that by adopting an athlete’s mindset.

You’ve spent half your adult life training for this moment – countless hours behind the desk, at the computer, on the phone and in transit. This is your time to change who you are when you’re sitting at your desk, to be the best physical version of yourself and still get the job done.

Pre-COVID, between commuting and sitting at the desk, the average office worker spent an average of 12 hours a day sitting. That’s a lot of hours on your rear.

But now, with work from home the norm, we’ve lost all our incidental exercise from our day – the walk to the train station, from the carpark to the office, from the office to the café. Now our longest daily commute is the ten steps from the kitchen table to the kettle.

So incidentally, we are now sitting even longer than the pre-COVID average of 12 hours, and most likely at a sub-optimal desk setup.

The silver lining to all this is that many people have taken hold of their physical wellbeing through this period, with regular walks and working out at home. Despite that, there are some scientific realities we need to understand.

The body’s metabolism starts to slow after just 20 minutes of sitting, which drastically affects blood sugar levels, increases cholesterol, and leads to weight gain. When we sit, the body produces a fat-storing enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which has a key role in how our body processes fat. When we sit for long periods, some of our larger muscle groups (like our legs) slow production of LPL, which leads to a number of health problems, including heart disease.

A former director of Life Sciences for NASA, Joan Vernikos, wrote a book called Sitting Kills, Moving Heals where she likens the effects of astronauts in antigravity situations to our sedentary lifestyle, and argues sitting is close to an anti-gravity pose. She also reveals that the simple act of standing up has some amazing health benefits, saying the act of standing up once per hour is more effective than walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes.

From this, us desk athletes can take some serious lessons. Mainly that disrupting our sitting a few times per hour, even just for a minute or two, can have significant health benefits.

Check out the videos below for four super easy exercises to keep you moving at the desk.

And remember: “YOU ARE A DESK ATHLETE!”

Bow and arrow

Saloon doors

Sit to stand

Standing swimming