Don't Just Sit There — How to Stay Healthy at Your Desk Job
You know that getting daily physical activity is great for your health. But if you spend your workday sitting in front of a computer, you could be doing your body harm in the long term, even if you stick to a regular exercise routine.
Long periods of inactivity, coupled with improper ergonomics (arranging and designing the things you use at work for their most efficient and safe use) can put stress and strain on your whole body and can lower your energy and alertness. Over time, people who sit for a long time without moving are more likely to have joint, bone and posture problems. These people also increase their risk of obesity and related conditions—heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among others.
However, not everyone can fit a lunchtime run into their day. It's important to learn what you can do realistically and stick to it. Even simple movements such as reaching, turning, stretching and fidgeting all add up to healthy activity when you’re sitting for hours every day.
Work out at work
Our bodies were made to move, but your job may require you to sit at a desk for eight hours a day. To lower the harmful effects of being inactive without sacrificing productivity, try these tips:
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Walk to a coworker’s desk rather than calling or emailing.
- When someone comes to your desk, stand up to talk and use this chance to stretch.
- Place things you use all the time on a shelf high enough that you have to stretch or stand up to reach them.
- When you need to meet with coworkers, suggest making it a standing or walking meeting rather than sitting down.
- Think about the tasks you do while sitting and see which ones you can do while standing up.
- Take a brisk afternoon walk around your building.
- If you run errands during lunchtime, walk briskly to and from your car. Park far away from the store’s entrance.
Stretch at your desk
These easy stretches can help ease tension and strain in your joints and muscles. You can do them seated or standing. Breathe easy while doing the stretches, don’t force or bounce and really feel the stretch.
- Shrug your shoulders: Breath in deeply and lift your shoulders up to your ears. Hold the shrug, then breathe out and drop your shoulders. Repeat three times.
- Stretch your arms: Clench your fists and stretch your hands out in front of you. Use your fist to draw circles in the air, first in one direction, then the other, for a total of 20 seconds. Shake out your hands.
- Give yourself a bear hug: Place your hands on your opposite shoulders (or your shoulder blades if you can reach that far), hug yourself tight and breathe in and out for 15 seconds.
- Stretch your neck muscles: Tilt your chin as far forward as it can go, dropping your head. Hold for a few seconds, then gently lift your chin and tilt your head back. Drop your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for a few seconds. Repeat on the other side, then repeat on each side again.
- Do leg extensions: Hold on to the seat of your chair for balance. Extend both of your legs in front of you so they are parallel to the floor. Flex and point your toes five times. Lower your legs and repeat.