Living Healthier at Your Desk: How to Offset a Sedentary Lifestyle
The human body was not designed to sit at a desk all day. A sedentary lifestyle carries a number of severe long-term health risks, but the reality is that the vast majority of Americans’ jobs involve computer-based work, meaning that they are anchored to their desks all day. In fact, Americans on average spend more time sitting than they do sleeping, with an average of 9 seated hours and seven sleeping hours.
A truly healthy lifestyle comes down to more than just eating healthfully and exercising enough. Continue reading for 10 easy to implement tips that don’t involve spending hours in the gym after work.
Keep a water bottle on your desk.
Adequate hydration is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Keeping a large water bottle on your desk so you can sip throughout the day will help you automatically hydrate yourself without even realizing it.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
This can be as extensive as meal planning and prepping or as simple as choosing where you will eat and what you will order if you choose to buy your lunch instead. Not only is it easier to make healthier choices by deciding what to eat when you aren’t starving after a morning of work, but removing this often taxing decision will reduce your decision fatigue and allow you to devote more mental energy to your work.
Stretch at your desk.
“Regularly stretching at your desk or walking around your office to stretch if possible will offset some of the muscle tightness and soreness you probably experience when you sit still all day. Your neck, shoulders, upper spine, and hip flexor muscles bear the brunt of a sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, these muscle groups can be stretched without even leaving your desk chair, meaning that you can realistically add a quick stretch to your workflow every hour or more.” says manager of Venture X coworking space in Dallas.
Keep healthy snacks to hand.
To avoid midday crashes due to hunger that leave you scrambling for something to eat, keep a selection of healthy snacks in your desk or bag.
Consider a standing desk or an ergonomic chair.
Standing desks and ergonomic chairs (which guide you to sit with healthy posture) can be pricey pieces of equipment, but as many workplaces move towards optimizing health and wellness for their employees, it may be a topic to bring up with your management. In the meantime, you can find or make modifications that allow you to stand at your desk, or specialized cushions that adjust lower back posture. At the very least, try bringing your laptop closer to eye level to reduce strain on your neck. For people with weight gain issues using probiotics for weight loss is a good start.
Take your laptop outside.
Fresh air is good for your lungs as well as your brain, but most importantly, natural sunlight is better for every aspect of your health than indoor fluorescent lighting if you are wearing adequate SPF on your skin. An outdoor environment or any change of scenery is also great for changing your thought patterns if your workflow has fallen into a rut. If you aren’t able to take your work to the fresh air and sunlight, sitting at a table in the office lobby or another area that brings a different environment may also help.
Use bluelight blocking glasses.
You may have heard about how blue light affects your sleep rhythms due to its inhibitory effects on melatonin production in your brain, but it can also cause eye-strain and headaches or migraines. Blue light blocking glasses use a tint and a reflective coating to filter out most of the blue light your screens emit. You can supplement this with tinted screen protectors and by adjusting your settings to reduce blue light levels on your computer screens. (Note: if you are a designer or your work otherwise involves working with color on screen, save this tip for your phone and at-home screens.)
Try walking meetings or phone calls.
For meetings that don’t require you to be in front of a screen, give a presentation, or talk to a large group of people, consider scheduling a walking meeting instead. This will give you and the colleagues you are meeting with the opportunity to walk around for 20 minutes or whatever the duration of your meeting needs to be, allowing some light activity in the middle of the day. This is also a great idea for phone calls if you have no reason to be rooted to your desk.
Cut back on the caffeine.
While caffeine has some health benefits in moderation, most people simply consume too much of it, whether it’s in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks, or other caffeinated beverages. Excessive caffeine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate in the long run, so you should try not to drink more than 2 cups or 16 ounces of coffee per day and limit your consumption to the morning. Nixing this habit can be difficult, especially if you are dependent on caffeine to feel productive and get things done, but that afternoon slump you keep hitting might actually be the result of a caffeine crash.
Take care of your hands.
Unlike the rest of your body, which is vastly underworked, your hands are overworked because of using a keyboard, mouse, and even pen and paper day-in-and-day-out. Over the years, this can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and other painful conditions. Stretch and massage your hands several times throughout the day to aid proper circulation and balance within the muscles.