I’m reading an excellent book that has inspired this post, Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Kelly Starrett. It’s so good it might even make it to the list as one of my favorite books for the year.
A point that has strongly resonated with me has been the author’s emphasis on the importance of movement breaks. As both an office worker, trader and a writer, I spend a lot of time parked in front of a desk. The book has a strong emphasis on moving into a standing desk, which fortunately my employer has provided for my office. At my home office I still sit, though I do implement the method of movement breaks described below.
The main concept is that by shifting into different positions other than the static sitting one most of us spend the majority of our time in, can do wonders to keep our bodies healthy. It prevents achy joints and stiff muscles from limiting your range of motion. To remedy this you must move. Frequently. The movement itself doesn’t have to be something that greatly elevates your heart rate, not that it hurts to get the blood moving a bit.
It could be as simple as a stroll about your house or office. It could be rolling out your wrists, doing some neck circles, and some light stretching. Starett suggests your breaks should be at least 2 minutes long every twenty-thirty minutes. At first, this may seem like a lot of breaks, but you get used to it and can use the time to think about what you’re working on by stepping back and getting a more macro perspective.
According to the book, and certainly from my anecdotal experience, when the body is inactive the brain does not fully engage and it becomes increasing more difficult to stay focused. Have you ever noticed the insights you get to a problem when you walk away from it? I think this is due to the health benefit and brain activation that happens because of the movement itself.
You have to put a condition in place to take these breaks, otherwise you’ll easily let them slide. I use a lightweight break timer on my computer which you can find here Every thirty minutes a popup appears on my screen reminding me to move. It’s hard to obey it sometimes, especially when it rudely interrupts you when you’re deep in thought or in the midst of a flow state.
In the book he offers a great list of options for routines you can implement during these breaks. The main idea is upon each break to focus on one area. The first break might be your neck, so you would do some neck rolls, stretches, and maybe some light massaging with a lacrosse ball. The next could be your wrists, so you would do some wrist rolls and wrist stretches. You get the idea.