More and more of us are experiencing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. While you may make time in your life to exercise regularly, you probably spend the majority of your workday in some kind of office or indoor environment. New studies have found that if you're spending much of your workday sitting around, you're not just increasing your risk of obesity, but a range of other illnesses as well, including cancer, kidney, lung and liver disease, digestive disorders, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, nervous disorders and musculoskeletal disorders.
Daily and continual small movements such as typing also contribute to repetitive strain injuries such as Carpal Tunnel, furthering the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. Who knew spending so much time in the safety of an air-conditioned space could prove to be so dangerous?
You don't have to give up your desk job to improve your health. Here are some things you can do to combat the sedentary workday:
Take regular breaks
We're all busy at work, and there's nothing like the satisfying feeling of a good work flow. But if you've been at your desk in the same position for over an hour, it's time for a break.
Taking a break to move and stretch can be beneficial in as little as two to five minutes. Additionally, looking away from your screen periodically helps to prevent eye fatigue, also known as Digital Eye Strain, which can lead to common workday problems such as headaches, shoulder pain and neck stiffness.
Stepping away from your computer regularly has also been shown to boost productivity, so if you're one of the many people who avoid taking breaks due to fear of falling behind schedule, rest assured that your workday intermissions can actually increase how much you'll get done.
Your mother always told you to sit up straight, and now science is telling us the same thing: good posture minimises excessive force on your joints and reduces aches and pains.
To get good posture in the workplace, a proper chair is paramount; avoid sitting in bucket seats, on couches or any other seat that causes your pelvis to rock back or forward into a slouch.
When typing, make sure you practice proper form, including keeping the wrists straight and in line with your hands. This means allowing your wrists to float rather than resting them on the desk. You can also use a wrist rest to accomplish this, and ensuring that your chair and desk are both in the proper position will allow you to type comfortably like this until your next break.
Avoid using a laptop and finding unconventional places to work; while that beanbag chair might look tempting and can be a nice place to rest, it’s not a proper workplace seating arrangement.
Lastly, make sure your feet are able to rest comfortably on the ground. If you don't have an adjustable table to work at to achieve the proper balance between flat feet, supported back and straight wrists, try using a pillow and/or footstool.
Proper form when typing helps you to avoid a range of short-term aches and chronic conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition caused by nerve compression, which becomes irreversible over time. If you are currently already experiencing pain, numbness or tingling in your forearms, wrists or fingers, making the right adjustments to your posture and wearing a supportive wrist brace can help you to reverse the damage while there's still time.
Stretch and take time to exercise
A regular break at work and good posture while sitting are critical steps to staying healthy at a desk job, but nothing beats shaking off the workday like regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to contribute to healthy weight, longevity and an overall sense of wellbeing. Strength training, low-impact cardio and stretching are all important components of regular exercise, and there are endless ways in which you can engage your body in healthy movement. Whether you enjoy the gym, you prefer the outdoors or you thrive on alternative activities such as dancing, trapeze or geocaching, there's an activity out there for you.
Learn more about how to make stretching, exercise and healthy living a part of your daily habits.