Balance, Wellness

Sitting All Day Is *The Worst* For Your Health. How To Stay Well Even With A Desk Job

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Have you ever been so dialed into your work that you look up only to realize you’ve been sitting in the exact same spot for five hours? It happens to me all. the. time. It’s so bad that I’ll go six to eight hours without eating or drinking.

This is … less than healthy.

You see, sustained periods of inactivity can put an enormous amount of strain on our bodies. As the years pass, those of us who sit for long stretches of time without moving are more likely to have joint, bone, and posture problems — not to mention an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Unfortunately, standing all day isn’t much better — hello, varicose veins!

Getting up and moving throughout the day is extremely important for our health and well-being. But how can we make sure we actually do it when we’re always so freaking busy?

Make a Little Extra Work for Yourself

When it comes to our jobs, efficiency is of utmost importance. We’re always striving to do more work, of higher quality, in less time. However, when it comes to fitting exercise into your day, the trick is to be less efficient. That’s right — you’re going to go against your instincts and create more work for yourself. For instance:

  • Instead of driving or taking public transit, walk or bike to work.
  • If your office is too far to walk to, get off the bus or train a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. If you drive, park a couple blocks away and hoof it.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • When your colleagues or boss stop by your desk (and they always do), use it as an excuse to stand up and stretch your muscles.
  • If you need to talk to a co-worker, walk to their desk rather than emailing or instant messaging them.
  • Turn as many meetings as possible into walking meetings.  
  • Need to go to the bathroom? Use the one that’s the farthest from your desk.
  • Set a timer to go off every half hour to remind you to get up and stretch.

When you put your mind to it, it’s surprisingly easy to find ways to get a few extra steps in!

Turn Lunch Into a Workout

Use your lunch break as a chance to get your heart rate up! Eat at your desk while you’re plugging away at work and then spend your break walking around the campus/block. If you have space, keep a pair of tennis shoes and socks at the office. Load your phone up with podcasts, audiobooks, or work-related seminars and go for a 15- to 30-minute walk.

A walking break will serve to increase your endorphin and serotonin levels, lower your blood pressure, and encourage better cholesterol levels. Listening to something interesting while you do it will give your brain a break while simultaneously keeping you entertained.

Protect Your Precious Eyesight

Computer vision syndrome (also known as digital eye strain) is the name given to a lovely assortment of eye and vision problems cause by long-term computer use. To prevent digital eye strain, do the following:

  • Adjust the brightness of your screen to match the lighting levels in your office.
  • Adjust the color temperature to lower blue light emission, as it contributes to eye strain.
  • If you wear glasses or contacts, ask your optometrist for lenses designed specifically for computer use. These lenses help to reduce glare and increase the screen’s contrast.
  • Giving your eyes multiple breaks each day by using the 20-20-20 rule. Take a breather every 20 minutes to look at least 20 feet away and focus on an object for 20 seconds.

For those of us who simply can’t avoid screens all day, it’s important to fine-tune our monitor settings to avoid straining our eyes more than necessary.

Get Into Ergonomics!

Take a moment to look around your office. How many of your co-workers are slouching? I bet it’s a pretty decent percentage. Office workers have notoriously bad posture, and unfortunately, it’s putting a lot of strain on their spines, necks, and shoulders. If you want to prevent musculoskeletal problems — not to mention tension headaches — you’ll need to set up your workstation to be ergonomic.

Start by adjusting your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees and hips are at the same height. Adjust your armrests to keep your shoulders in a comfortable position and your upper arm tucked next to your torso. Your wrist position should be neutral. Use an ergonomic keyboard and a wrist rest to help your wrists “float” over the keys.

The top of your monitor should be at eye level and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes. If it’s any lower or higher, you’ll unconsciously adapt by moving your head, and eventually, you’ll end up with an aching neck and back.

Take Care of Your Immune System

We all know that it’s virtually impossible to stay away from germs altogether. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting sick while working in an office. Number one is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Make sure to do so after you use the restroom:  before and after you eat; and after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose.

Take some time every week to disinfect all the frequently touched surfaces around your desk. This includes your desktop, keyboard, mouse, monitor, chair, and phone. Get a flu shot every year when they’re offered. It’s likely that they will be low cost or even free under your health insurance. Finally, if you do come down with something, stay home until you’re fever-free for at least 24 hours to prevent spreading the illness to others.

If your company offers the ability to work remote, it might be a good idea to take advantage of this benefit as much as possible during cold and flu season. Not only will it help you avoid catching the office plague, it will also allow you to stay on top of your work if you end up feeling a little run down. Set up a small, dedicated workspace in your home, and make sure to keep it disinfected, just as you would your desk in the office.

Conclusion

Not everyone can go to the gym during their lunch break or exercise at their desks. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit there motionless for hours on end. Stretching, reaching, walking to and from the break room — all of these activities can really add up when you’re sitting all day, every day. Find what works for you and stick to it. Your body will thank you in the long run.

Do you feel the effects of sitting all day? 

Also by Liz: How To Do Gorgeous, Eco-Friendly Home Renovations You’ll Adore

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Liz Greene
Liz Greene is a makeup enthusiast, rabid feminist, and an anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can follow her latest misadventures on her blog, Three Broke Bunnies
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