20 Jun What We’re Reading Now – Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Book, by Larry Swanson
By Grant T. Smith
There are now close to 30 people employed here at Clearline. Each of them spends most of the day sitting at a desk. It is, perhaps, not surprising that we are spending more and more time discussing and considering the health choices open to our team.
Some of us, and by some of us I mean Jeff, turn to competitions in the office to spark exercise at home as a way of staying fit. (I almost said young and fit, but I look around the office now and see the dream of eternal youth is fading for more of my colleagues.)
Others have congregated at the newly installed ping pong table in downtown Vancouver, to find the occasional shake out during the long days of tax season. Many have structured some sort of regular exercise regime to kick of the dust of the labours.
With the growing size of the endeavour, the volume of the dialogue has risen and solutions for the hazards of the office workplace are now too loud to ignore. This kind of dialogue has become more important for many of us as our world become more sedentary.
Accordingly this month I reached for a book about the topic so I could share some supported insights.
That brings me to Swanson’s Scared Sitless, a book dedicated to the evils of office work. In full disclosure, I have used a standing desk for close to five years now and I am a dedicated fan, probably because I spent many years, prior to becoming a CPA, in very active employ. My previous experience involved active work, theatre production, retail gardening, among many others, so I was initially shocked by the idea of sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day…but to our book.
Swanson divides the book into six primary chapters:
- Sitting and other hazards of the work space
- Habits and behaviour change
- The antidote to sitting disease
- Office ergonomics
- Posture in the office
- Exercise for office work
In the first chapter, we learn about the research and conclusive evidence that sitting is bad for your health. This section is well structured and to the point. It offers a great deal of documented information about the ills of sitting and references a number of key studies on the issue. A key takeaway is that we are not able to balance our sedentary lifestyle by regular work-outs: “Society keeps building gyms to help us combat obesity… but the calories we burn behind their mirrored walls pale in comparison to those we could and should be burning in normal life.”
Our second chapter, on habits and behaviour change starts to assist the reader in understanding how to change current behaviour. It contains a number of useful tips to create change mechanisms or to build change agents. Some examples:
- “After I turn on the computer I will align my belly button with the “B” key on my keyboard” – to support proper positioning.
- “After hang-up the phone I will take a drink of water” – to promote hydration.
- “After I arrive at my standing desk, I will position my footrest so I can easily reach it” – to support continual movement.
The book then moves to discuss how to become active in the office and to provide both guidance and a variety of exercises.
The work is all credible and the tips valid, but the delivery is less than inspiring. I found the latter two-thirds of the book to drag. I would give it credit though as I read the entire book standing or squatting. As I read it, placed on the nearest mantle, shelf or table I continually did squats or balanced on my dusty balance board. I danced in the elevator, of course I often do that, #danceintransitvan and sometimes stood on my head.
All in all, a valuable book, worth reading by anyone who wants to understand the impacts of the modern office. Nevertheless, it felt a bit like a great topic in search of an author.