The research is in, and it’s not pretty. Sitting down all day, every day – at a desk, on long journeys or in a vehicle – has a serious, long-term impact on your health. Not only that, but if you work an office job you have to deal with the drying effect of air conditioning and the deterioration of your eyes due to staring at a screen.
If you have a great health and fitness regime going on outside of the office, don’t undo your great work during the daily grind. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom! Here are some of the risks and some nifty ways to sidestep them and lead a healthier life, even when you’re at work.
Time to sit up and pay attention
When you sit down for prolonged periods of time, it places additional pressure on your lower back. If you’re seated at work for more than three hours and you don’t keep a close eye on your posture, you can end up with chronic lower back pain and sciatica, a painful nerve condition.
So what does good seated posture look like? A few pointers: make sure you have good support for your lower back; keep your feet flat on the floor or a foot rest; ensure your hips are ever-so-slightly higher than your knees; make sure the middle or top of your screen is level with your eyes. If you are prone to sitting with your legs crossed, try to put a stop to this habit as it’s also not good for your spinal alignment. Spending a few minutes on this each day sets you up for a lifetime of success!
Stretch your legs
Sitting still allows blood to pool in your legs and can lead to varicose veins. Stretching at your desk helps get the blood moving. It can also provide a little reminder that you need to reset your posture if you have started to slump. Look up ‘deskercise’ for some short (and not at all embarrassing) routines you can do to get yourself moving if you don’t have time for a break.
Up and at ‘em
Some research suggests that sitting down all day can reduce your insulin sensitivity and the number of calories from fat you burn, too. Undoubtedly, the best way to mitigate the risks of a sedentary work style is to get up out of your seat. To maximise the effectiveness of this strategy, use an alarm (or a fancy fitness tracker) to remind you to go for a walk around the office every hour. While grabbing a colleague and going for a lunge to the cafe might be a bit too extreme, a brisk walk around a nearby park at lunchtime could do wonders.
Put the snacks down
It’s tempting to pass the time with a snack or two when you’re sitting in front of your screen every day, so make sure you’ve either packed some super-healthy snacks or you have a varied schedule (e.g. plan meetings, breaks and collaborative activities throughout the day) to help keep the munchies at bay. Drink lots of water, too; dehydration is easy to confuse for hunger.
Make it count
If you do have to stare at a screen all day, why not do something useful with the time and find an outdoor fitness class? Research has also shown that exercising outside improves your mood and can burn more calories, and if you’ve been in the office all day you’re bound to feel the benefits of getting outdoors and really looking after your body and mind.
As always, stay fit, and stay healthy.
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