If you’re stuck behind a desk all day, it can be hard to find time to exercise. But failing to do so can have serious consequences.
Many people work desk jobs, which is not an ideal situation for your health. And nearly half of America has gained weight at their current job with 26% having gained more than 10 pounds, and 11% having gained more than 20 pounds. That’s proof enough that it’s time to start paying attention to what your sedentary body is trying to tell you.
Sitting all day can lead to a higher chance of developing heart disease, joint pain, and other health-related problems. According to WebMD, in a study between transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who don’t, those who sat were about twice as likely to get heart disease as those who stood. Sitting all day has also been tied to a shorter life span and a greater likelihood of developing dementia, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
But we have to make money, and many of our jobs entail work on a computer. How can we stay healthy even when we’re tied to a desk?
Take hourly breaks
Hours of working at your desk can take a toll on your body. Taking breaks helps you improve focus, so they actually can help your job performance. Long stretches of work can be rough on your body. Take short breaks to ensure you maintain focus and keep you from feeling drained. You’ll get more done and have more energy to stay active when you’re not behind the desk the entire day.
If you’re someone who experiences headaches or blurred vision after staring at your computer screen for too long, your eyes are craving a severe break. Try taking a break every 20 minutes by looking at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This helps your eyes relax after looking at a digital screen or reading for an extended period of times.
Stretch or move in place
Stretching at your desk can eliminate stress and offers many health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re unsure how to stretch while sitting, Google “deskercise,” and you’ll find plenty of great stretch and movement ideas you can do right at your desk. Your co-workers may think it’s a little weird at first, but maybe eventually they’ll join you. And your body will thank you later.
Get more steps in
Are you walking 10,000 steps a day? That is the ideal goal for healthy adults. Getting 10,000 steps can be challenging to achieve if you’re sitting at your desk all day. A great way to get closer to 10,000 steps is to take the stairs. You can also park in a spot further from your office. Take the “scenic route” when you’re going to a meeting or going to talk to a colleague.
Work standing up
A Los Angeles Times study revealed that a person who works at a desk job might burn 300 calories during a workweek, while those in jobs that require physical effort can burn 2,000 calories more. Standing desks are a growing trend, and some people even enjoy working at a treadmill desk. Even if you opt for a traditional desk, standing frequently and taking standing stretch breaks will help you burn more calories.
Eat smaller meals more often
Hunger is your worst enemy when trying to stay healthy. When you’re hungry, you can quickly lose focus and become more prone to gorging on lousy food. When you’re at the office, junk food is often readily available and can lead to a loss of energy and overall declining health.
When you’re starving and rushed to finish up an assignment or make it to a meeting on time, you’re more likely to settle for a quicker and less healthy lunch. This is where meal prepping and planning comes in handy. Additionally, try not to eat lunch alone at your desk. Instead, find a conference room and eat lunch with a co-worker.
Strive for good posture
Good ergonomics and posture are vital to good health. To check your posture, stand against a wall and make sure your neck, spine, and lower spine all touch the wall. Sitting for long periods can compress your lumbar spine, the portion of spin in your lower back. It can start to bend and flex, leading to strain or weakness. To counteract that, try to sit with your stomach tucked in. That works your stomach muscles, and strong stomach muscles help strengthen the back.
When sitting, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor, and the armrests are just slightly below your elbows (measure this by sitting in the chair and dropping your arms to your sides). Keyboard height should be 1 to 2 inches below your elbows so that your hands while typing, are in a neutral position. Additionally, although it’s a hard habit to break, try not to cross your legs — instead keep both feet flat on the floor in front of you.
Make exercise a work activity
Are there ways you can integrate exercise into your career? Some companies have competitive exercise programs that reward you if you walk a certain amount or lose weight. If your job includes networking, is there a way to incorporate exercise, such as golf or tennis, into your networking game?
Drink plenty of water
Your mom has been telling you this your whole life. But you need to hear it. When it comes to water intake, shoot for twice your body weight in ounces each day. Water serves as an appetite suppressant, helping you say no to those office doughnuts with more confidence. Trips to the water cooler will also give you an excuse to get up from your desk.
Use your lunch break
It can be tempting when you’re overloaded with tasks to work through your lunch break. But you’ll be more productive after getting a mental and physical break away from your desk. Go outside or take a stroll around the building. For many, lunchtime is the only time of the day you have for yourself. Take advantage of it.
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