Did you know that your desk job could be bad for your health? Unfortunately for most of us, research shows that long periods of sitting can lead to a wide range of health issues, including obesity, heart disease, muscle pain, and mental stress.
However, if your work requires you to sit at a desk for long periods, you’ll be relieved to know that there are a number of simple actions you can take to reduce the negative impact of sitting at work.
Follow our practical tips to boost your work health and improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
1. Stand up regularly
Much has been published in recent years about the health benefits of standing vs. sitting when working. The science-backed advantages of working standing up include reducing the risk of heart disease and obesity, lowering blood sugar levels, minimising back pain, and even boosting your mood and energy levels.
Standing desks can be a great way to ensure you’re on your feet while remaining productive. However, if you don’t have access to a standing desk, make a conscious effort to work while standing where possible – for example, while taking a call or conversing with a colleague.
2. Take movement breaks
A study in the journal Nature revealed that sitting for long periods of time increased the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as causing weight gain. What’s more, a different study found that vascular function is impaired after six hours of sitting.
To reduce your risk of health issues, it’s crucial to get up and move around as often as possible, which will help to improve blood flow and reduce muscle fatigue. This might involve taking ‘walking’ phone calls, using gaps between meetings to fit in a quick walk around the block, or moving away from your desk for a walk when coming up with creative ideas.
3. Perform stretching exercises
If you spend long hours at your desk, engaging in regular stretching can reduce the muscular pain associated with sedentary lifestyles by up to 72%, as well as minimise mental stress and fatigue.
There are a number of stretches you can perform while at your desk, making it possible for even the most time-poor among us to fit in a quick stretching session. Try a simple overhead stretch by clasping your hands together above your head, stretching your arms upwards, and holding for up to 30 seconds.
4. Get active on your lunch break
A study of over 1 million people revealed that engaging in physical activity for at least one hour per day actually eliminated the increased risk of death associated with sitting for 8 hours daily, while those who were physically active for a total of four hours per week reduced their risk of experiencing mental health issues by around half.
Even if you have limited opportunity to move around while you’re working, using your lunch break as an opportunity to get active can provide a myriad of health benefits. Whether it’s a run in the park, a workout in the gym, or a swim in the ocean, finding ways to be physically active during your lunch hour is a great way of improving your health when working at a desk.
5. Optimise your work environment
While most of us spend the majority of our time sitting at a desk, relatively few people invest time and resources into ensuring their workplace ergonomics are set up for success. Altering your workspace can provide a range of benefits, from improving your posture to reducing strain on your neck, shoulders and eyes.
A few quick improvements you can make to your ergonomics include:
- Ensuring your feet are resting on the floor or a footrest.
- Adjusting your seat so that your legs and arms are parallel with the ground.
- Positioning the top of the screen at your eye level, with a small upwards tilt of 10-20 degrees.
- Avoiding sitting with your legs crossed, which can lead to muscle strain and reduced blood flow.