You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ That’s because research has found that prolonged sitting on a daily basis can lead to a slew of the same health risks as smoking! So, what do you do if you are tied to a desk job from 9 to 5? Fear not, there are ways for you to combat the physical health issues as well as the mental strain that come from a desk job. Read on for my top tips on staying healthy with a desk job.
1) Keep Water In Arms Reach
Dehydration can be a major issue for desk-bound workers. Most neglect their water intake and there are numerous health issues that come from this dehydration. In addition to the physical issues, fatigue can be a common result of dehydration. So, you may have your poor water intake to blame for all the yawning you are doing at your desk! To ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day, fill up a big water bottle first thing in the morning and keep it on your desk where you can see it and reach it. Make a point to sip on it throughout the day and refill it when it empties (which is also a good opportunity to get up and move and do some of the other things on this list!)
2) Extend Your Bathroom Breaks
When nature calls, you have no choice but to listen. (And that may be happening more frequently now that you are drinking so much more water! 😉 ) But instead of making that trip to the bathroom a quickie, use it as an opportunity to move a little more and stretch your legs. It’s an opportunity to get a mental break from your work but also an opportunity to move your body and undo some of the stagnation effects of sitting. So, take the long way to the bathroom, do some squats after a bathroom break, do a quick visit with co-workers, or walk up and down a flight of stairs. Whatever it is, use it as an opportunity to move just a little bit more
3) Focus on Your Posture
When you sit all day, it can take a toll on your body. Poor posture can cause dramatic physical stress to your body, especially on your neck and back. To ensure you have good posture at your desk, make sure your chair is at a height where your thighs are parallel to the floor. In addition, you want your computer screen to be at a height that ensures your head is upright and neutral (not looking too far down or up). Sitting in this way, focus on drawing your shoulders back and sitting upright. Consider setting ‘posture reminder’ alarms on your computer to catch you when you start to slouch….it can be easy to forget as you get caught up in a project!
4) Take Walking Meetings and Calls
Movement, and specifically walking, can be a really effective way to take care of your brain and enhance your creativity. And what better time to do this than during meetings and calls! If you have small group meetings regularly, consider suggestion having them as ‘walking meetings’ where you walk and talk outside. In addition, consider taking phone calls via speakerphone or headset to allow you to pace during the calls. Use them as an opportunity to up your step count for the day!
5) Stretch it out!
Stretching is a wonderful tool to counteract stress as well as to alleviate some of the bodily aches and pains that can come from sitting all day. But don’t wait until those aches set in! Be proactive about by scheduling in 3-minute stretch sessions throughout the day. Focus on getting blood flow to the areas most impacted by being at your desk all day: back, shoulders, neck, and wrists. Your stretch session may feel so good that you find yourself looking forward to the next one!
6) Lunch Breaks should be breaks!
It is all too common for people to take their lunch at their desks and essentially work through lunch. But we have a lunch break for a reason! Half way through the day, our brain is spent and it needs a real break! At this point we are not nearly as focused and productive as we were at the beginning of the day, and our lunch break is an opportunity to get back to that. By giving yourself both a mental and physical break from your work and your desk at lunch, you will restore your body and mind and go back to work feeling focused and attentive and much more productive than if you had worked through lunch!
7) Move After Work!
It is not uncommon to see someone who sits at a desk all day go home and sit on a couch all evening. The fact is, you may not be able to do much about your desk situation at work, but you can do a lot about your couch situation after work! After work is your opportunity to move and undo the impacts of sitting all day. Take a walk, go to the gym, do some yoga or some more stretching, walk around your couch as you watch TV, dance around your house, do some chores, anything! But get yourself moving and allow your body the benefits of being done with your desk time!
So, those are my top tips on being healthier while being desk-bound. Try implanting one, or two (or all!) of them and see how you feel. Your body and brain will thank you!