How to Stay Healthy When You Sit at a Desk All Day
As a copywriter, I spend a lot of time at my desk. Which is great. I love my desk. It’s my little creative space in my house.
But I also know that sitting at my desk all day is doing all kinds of damage to my body that I should be concerned about. My back is sometimes stiff and sore, my neck and eyes ache sometimes, and these are only the effects I can see for myself.
Research has shown that sitting for prolonged periods has many negative effects on the body ranging from obesity all the way to cancer.
So knowing that I’m not the only one out there that sits at a desk all day and therefore not the only one suffering from desk-induced illnesses, I thought I’d put together some tips for staying healthy while working.
Keep an Eye on Your Posture
One of the main problems that comes from sitting at a desk all day is from something we’re probably not paying all that much attention to. How we’re sitting.
We all remember being told to ‘sit up straight’ when we were kids, and it’s something we should be saying to ourselves more often. Bad posture while sitting can lead to all kinds of problems, from back and neck pain to digestive issues.
Sitting at a computer for 8 hours or more a day means we’re probably hunching over more than we should be and doing damage to our shoulders and backs. But if we just try to be more aware of how we’re sitting, we could save ourselves some strain and aches in the future.
Try not to cross your legs while sitting at your desk, keep your feet on the ground (easier said than done, I know. I’ve just realised I’m sitting with my legs crossed as I write this.) If you do find yourself slouching forward, sit up and straighten your back.
Just being more aware and checking your posture every now and again will help towards keeping your back healthy.
If you do find that your back is feeling tight or your legs are getting stiff after a day at your desk, maybe it’s worth taking some time during your day to stretch out your muscles.
There are so many benefits to stretching, from improved flexibility to better posture and increased blood flow to your muscles.
Just a few minutes of stretching throughout your day can help to loosen you up and stop you from getting sore and tight.
If you’re not sure what to do, here’s a quick stretching video that I love. It’s made to be done at work and stretches out your neck, arms, and back, so it’s perfect if you’re sitting down at a computer for long hours.
Get Up From Your Desk
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy when you sit at a desk all day is not actually to sit at your desk all day.
Taking regular breaks from your desk to move around a little bit is a great way to get some movement into your day. Simple things such as walking around the office (or the house if you work from home, like me), walking up to a colleague to speak to them instead of emailing them, standing while you’re on the phone, it all adds up.
Put an alarm on your phone to remind you to move a little bit every hour, even if it just means going to the bathroom or the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking water has got to be the be-all-and-end-all of healthy habits. If you’re drinking enough water, you’re set. You’ve got more energy, your skin looks better, you’re less tired. Being hydrated is just great all around.
So not only is drinking plenty of water a great way to stay healthy, it’s yet another reason to get up and away from your desk for a few minutes. You need to keep refilling that bottle (and probably going to the bathroom).
Schedule Exercise When You Can
I pointed out earlier that there are a lot of negative side effects to sitting at a desk. But a lot of these can be offset by being more active throughout the day.
A study found that doing an hour of activity a day can wipe out the impact of a sedentary workday.
This hour can be spread throughout the day, so does include all of those little walks around the office, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. But it’s worth trying to schedule some exercise into your day as well, even just 30 minutes, to make up the time.
A lot of offices offer exercise classes on site for their employees these days, so it’s worth looking into that if you’re in an office. If you work at home you can browse YouTube and the hundreds of home workout videos online (my personal favourite channel is Fitness Blender, they have over 400 free workouts ranging in difficulty and style. I love them, and I’d recommend them to everyone).
If workouts or classes aren’t your thing then simply going for a brisk walk is enough to meet your exercise goals.
Leave Your Desk at Lunch
Staying healthy at your desk isn’t just about your physical health, it’s important to keep your mind healthy as well.
A lot of people eat lunch at their desk or skip lunch altogether, and this is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health at work.
Your lunch is your time, not work’s time. Don’t spend it hunched over your computer. Go for a walk, read a book, or listen to a podcast. Even go to the gym to get that 30 minutes of exercise if you feel like it.
Just make sure you’re doing something for you instead of overworking yourself.
And if you’re worried you’ll fall behind on your work if you leave your desk, remember that your brain needs a break from time to time, and giving it that break will actually help it to refocus and make you more productive in the long run.
The bottom line of staying healthy while working a desk job is to try to move as much as possible throughout the day. It helps both physically, by keeping you active, and mentally, by giving your brain a break and letting it re-energise.
Sitting at a desk all day can be tiring and stressful, but by sticking to these little tips you can help yourself stay that little bit healthier.