Is your desk job hazardous to your health? It may well be, especially if you sit at that desk for long periods of time. Lifestyles that involve sitting for many hours a day been linked to increased rates of obesity, back pain, diabetes, and heart disease. A 2010 study found that “men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity.” But the nature of office work is, on the whole, sedentary, and we’ve all got to work for a living. So what can we do to make our desk jobs less detrimental to our health?
Change your commute into exercise
Instead of driving to work, consider walking, or riding a bicycle. If you use public transportation, get off one or two stops earlier, and walk the rest of the way. This simple change alone can provide much of your needed exercise for the week, and you don’t have to do it every day to benefit; start with one or two days a week, and work up. Exercising in the morning will expose you to fresh air, and you’ll arrive feeling more energized. At work, consider extending this “healthier commute” trend by taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
Get up from your desk and move around… often
Once you’re at work, try not to sit at your desk all day. Sitting for long, uninterrupted periods of time has definitely been shown to be bad for your health. Instead, take micro-breaks during the day by getting up and walking around the office, even if it’s just to the copier or the water cooler. Instead of picking up the phone to call someone in the same office, get up from your desk and meet them face to face. Are you going to be on a long telephone call? Consider standing while making it; your body burns 100 calories a day just by standing. Send your documents to a printer further away from your desk, so that you have to walk there to get it.
Interestingly enough, one of the best decisions you can make to improve your health is to eat breakfast. Research has proved that workers who eat breakfast have better concentration and tend to eat less during the day than those who do not. So eating a good breakfast will give you more energy during the day and help you to avoid gaining weight.
If possible, bring a healthy lunch from home rather than going out with co-workers to the local burger or pizza joint. If you tend to snack during the day, instead of relying on sugary snacks from the office vending machines, bring healthier snacks from home like cheeses and fruits and nuts. Also, consider drinking more water and less coffee. To keep yourself hydrated and healthy, you should be drinking four to six glasses of water a day. Keep a bottle of water at your desk or, even better, get up often during the day and refill your glass from the water fountain or cooler, and thus give yourself another opportunity for a micro-break.
Exercise and stretch at your desk
You probably won’t want to do push-ups at your desk, but you can certainly stretch. Prolonged periods of sitting result in your muscles becoming shortened and tight, which can cause back pain and problems with your posture. So instead, spend a few minutes on the Internet and look up some of the many “Stretch at your desk” exercises you’ll find there. You can perform most of them unobtrusively, but they allow you to release tension and keep it from building up.
While you’re at your desk, think ergonomically. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and with your computer monitor at eye level and keyboard at elbow level, so that your wrists can be straight when you type. And don’t forget about fresh air, because offices are often badly ventilated. If you can, open a window; if you can’t, go outside every so often for a breath of fresh air on one of your micro-breaks.
These may all seem like simple ideas – and they are – but adopting them can do wonders for how you feel while at work, and how you feel afterwards. By making a few simple changes like these, thousands of workers have managed to improve both their health and their attitudes about work. Aren’t they worth a try?