Sitting down all day is one of the worst things we can do for our health. A sedentary lifestyle increases risk for weight gain, heart disease, and pain in muscles and joints among other things. But what about those of us who have a job that requires us to sit at a desk for the majority of the day?
We only get one body, so it’s important to take care of it.
Here are some ideas to help get you started.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to long-term health, it is about progress, not perfection. Small changes add up over time, and help maintain consistency as opposed to a complete overhaul of our daily routine. There is no need to try to incorporate everything on this list. You can pick and choose what is easiest and most helpful for you to maximize your health.
Chances are if you sit at a desk all day for work, you’re staring at a computer screen for most of the day as well. Try to setup your desk in a way that doesn’t strain your body and maximizes good posture.
- Screen Time
Staring at a screen all day can also take a toll on your eyes. Be sure your office has good lighting so you’re not straining to see. You can adjust the screen settings in a way that best suits you. Too bright and too dark can be stressful on the eyes, so finding a setting in the middle is likely your best bet. Your eyes also need a break from the screen regularly throughout the day. Remember your eyes are attached to muscles, and like any other muscle in the body, if we use it too much it gets tired. The muscles of the eye relax when we look at something far away. Try to take 10-15 seconds regularly throughout the day to stare at a distant object to help the muscles relax and prevent fatigue.
- Take breaks
When you’re busy it’s particularly easy to use that as an excuse to keep working. However, movement is very important when it comes to concentration, focus, and stamina to get through the work day. Taking a few minutes an hour to get up and walk to the printer, water cooler, bathroom, window, or to a colleague’s desk can have a tremendous impact on efficiency and work performance.
The body is not designed to sit stationary all day. It is important to get up and stretch regularly. Bring a yoga mat to work and roll it out when you need a stretch break, and then roll it up when you’re done. Your body will thank you.
Use any excuse you can to move during the day with a goal of 10,000 steps per day. It sounds like a lot, but it’s doable. If you have to go up or down a floor take the stairs instead of the elevator. Smart watches and smart exercise bands allow you to set reminders to move. Take advantage of those perks. During your lunch break consider walking around the building once or twice, and invite co-workers to join you. You might be the one to start a new trend at work.
Bring your own lunch. There are hundreds of great websites that you can look to for healthy recipes that are fast and easy to make. If you’re trying to be efficient use one of these recipes for dinner, and then take leftovers for lunch. When you don’t prepare your own food you don’t know what ingredients are in it. Fast food and sit-down restaurant foods can be loaded with fat, sugar, and salt. That mixed with a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for weight gain and health problems.
- Snack time
Avoid the workplace vending machine at all costs. Chips, candy bars, and other “health” bars have a ton of sugar and/or salt in them. Instead keep a bag of nuts or dried fruit in your desk for those days when you have a craving for something sweet or salty.
It’s amazing how often we forget to drink water when we’re busy. Keeping a reusable bottle on your desk helps remind us to drink water throughout the day. Water helps fight fatigue, prevents overeating, and can help with cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Will power
People often mean well when they circulate pastries, bagels, cookies, and other sweets around the office. Just say thank you and decline. Just because someone offers you something, you don’t have to eat it. If you’re snacking throughout the day and are not “starving” because you were too busy to eat, saying no will likely be much easier. It’s hard to say no to a donut when you’re ravenous.
Work can be very stressful at times and it is important to have a strategy to manage the stress and worry. Meditation is a great way to help yourself recover. There are several great apps that you can use if meditating on your own is a struggle. If you’re the type of person who can’t sit still there are active meditation options you can pursue as well.
- When you gotta go… go!
Sometimes there is so much to do during a work day that we put off one of the most important bodily functions that take place everyday. Going to the bathroom! When you have to go… go. Holding in urine can create long-term health problems. The bladder, like every organ in the body, does not function optimally when overworked. When you “hold it” in it weakens the pelvic floor muscles over time which makes bladder leakage more likely in the future. “Holding it” also increases risk of urinary tract infections, and if urine flows backward toward the kidneys this can lead to kidney infections as well. Instead of doing the pee-pee dance and waiting until the last minute, when you gotta go…just go.
*Originally published on the Inpathy Bulletin