Staying Teacher Healthy

Now that so many teachers are teaching online, questions are being raised about how teachers can stay healthy given that they are sitting down at their computers, monitors an inordinate amount of time.

I have a lot of experience with this so sharing some of my own advice. As an athlete but also as someone who has been working and teaching remotely for years. It isn’t a one size fits all thing – depends on your own situation, budget and living/working environment.

I probably don’t have to say this but I will anyway – sitting is literally KILLING YOU. Yes, it is the new smoking. I highly recommend the book – Get Up. Well written, inspiring, even if you don’t believe every hour you sit takes 2 hours off your life! If you don’t understand the need to get up and get moving after reading this book – this post isn’t for you!

So with that said and out of the way – How do you teach without sitting?

It’s easy. And of course, there are times when you will be sitting and teaching, working. Just don’t do it all day. Here are some tips and setups that might work for you! Download our infographic and share with your colleagues!

Do all the usual healthy stuff that you did when teaching in the regular classroom. Drink lots of water (voice protection), take breaks and walk around. Avoid sweets and high calorie snacking. Stretch a few times a day.

Posture. If you have to sit, do it properly. Chair at the right height to the desk. Get a mouse pad with wrist support. Sit up straight, don’t slouch. Probably the biggest tip is to keep your knees lower than your core. Look at the diagram below. Most chairs aren’t designed ergo-dynamically so I advise using a sitting wedge. You can make your own and believe me – it will save you from lots of IT Band, hip and lower back pain! Buy one or make your own.

Move. Even if sitting, there are exercises you can do at the same time to help maintain your flexibility and avoid problems related to being stationary. Leg and calf raises, chair dips, twists, ankle flexing etc …

Move more. Moving is key to everything and keeping healthy while teaching at a desk/table. Even if sitting there is still a beautiful, cheap way to move and burn calories – an under the desk set of pedals. These work and are a pocketbook friendly solution to the problem of “sitting is killing you”.. Gently pedal while working, teaching. You’ll see the results!

under the desk pedals

Stand. Yes, like the book says – Get up! However, a word of caution. Many teachers are using standing desks (I’ve used this one) and are declaring this as the solution to sitting at a desk. It isn’t a solution. If you stand all day – believe me, you’ll have the same kind of sedentary related problems as sitting. So yes, have a standing teaching station but use it to alternate from your sitting desk. DON’T use it all the time.

A Treadmill Desk. As I write this, I’m on my treadmill desk and have already logged 2.6 miles while typing, researching this article. I walk at about 2 mph. It adds up and throughout my day, I’ll typically do over 10 miles – that’s 20,000+ steps! I’m healthy and spry as can be.

The good news is that if you set up your treadmill desk right, you don’t have to spend a lot of money (like this one) and the rest of the family (or you) can also use it for running, aerobic fitness. You just need a hack. Don’t do like this guy! More like this woman – it’s easy.

I use a NordicTrack T6.5s – basic, low noise treadmill. I got mine slightly used for $500 USD. But it is commercial grade (motor is at least 2.0 CHP) and solid. Don’t invest in something cheap like you get at Costco or Walmart. You can even get a manual (non-motorized) treadmill. Silent and will last a lifetime. It works just as well.

Once you get the treadmill, set up a portable desk top. I just use a board across the two arms. Bingo! A desk. I remove it for running or my wife does for her own workout. 2 birds with one stone. I put a second monitor in front to see my students and use my laptop on the desk to administer classes and content. Nobody even hears a thing! They just see my head bobbing a little up and down a little.

If the desk isn’t high enough, put up a shoe box and put your laptop on that. Or for your mouse, put it on top of a nice thick book – I use my very disused Oxford Unabridged English Dictionary!

My teaching setup

There are lots of other things to say about using a treadmill desk. I’ll leave that for another post or contact me with any questions – david@eltbuzz.com . I’m also available for consultation for any schools, organizations needing help and coaching in keeping their teachers fit!


Also published on Medium.

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