In a typical office setting, many employees may spend a significant portion of their workday sitting at desks, especially in roles that involve computer work, administrative tasks, or meetings, but prolonged periods of sitting can take a toll on our physical and mental well-being.
Sitting for extended periods has been associated with various health risks, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reduced circulation, and musculoskeletal issues. While many of us can’t escape ‘desk duty’, we can still make time for our health work.
Combat the adverse effects of desk-bound work by incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine.
1. Take Regular Breaks
Stand up and move around for at least five minutes every hour. You can set a timer or use apps to remind you to take breaks. During these breaks, stretch your arms, legs, and back, and take a short walk around your workspace. This will help improve blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and boost energy levels. Frequent breaks can also enhance focus and concentration, increasing productivity.
2. Practice Good Posture
Proper posture prevents back and neck pain that often accompanies desk work. To ensure good posture:
- Align your computer screen at eye level so you don’t have to look down or up constantly.
- Sit flat on the ground and your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and wrists in a neutral position.
- Purchase an ergonomic chair that will support your lower back.
- Using a lumbar cushion or a rolled-up towel to support the natural curve of your lower back can also promote better posture. Try to sit up straight, and consider adopting posture reminder apps or gadgets that notify you when you slouch.
3. Stay Hydrated
When you’re busy working at your desk, forgetting to drink water regularly is easy. Dehydration can cause headaches and reduced cognitive function, which can reduce productivity.
Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk to develop a healthy habit of staying hydrated. Make a habit of taking sips of water throughout the day. Herbal teas and infused water can also be enjoyable alternatives to plain water.
4. Incorporate Desk Exercises
You don’t need to leave your desk to incorporate physical activity into your workday. Desk exercises can help improve your flexibility and reduce the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
Here are some simple exercises you can do at your desk:
- Neck stretches: Tilt your head to the left and right, then forward and backward for 15-20 seconds.
- Shoulder rolls: Roll your shoulders backward and forward to relieve tension.
- Leg lifts: While sitting, lift one leg at a time and hold for a few seconds before lowering it. Repeat this exercise for both legs.
- Seated marches: Sit up straight and lift your knees alternately toward your chest, mimicking a marching motion.
- Desk squats: Stand up from your chair and sit back down without using your hands, engaging your leg muscles.
5. Plan Nutritious Meals and Snacks
Planning nutritious meals and snacks can help you stay focused and productive throughout the day. Avoid sugary or processed foods that can lead to energy crashes, and opt for balanced meals that include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Here are some healthy eating habits to keep in mind when working at your desk:
- Eat a healthy breakfast: Eating breakfast before work keeps you full the entire morning and keeps you snacking at bay.
- Pack a balanced lunch: Prepare a nutritious lunch the night before to avoid reaching for unhealthy takeout options.
- Snack wisely: Keep healthy snacks like nuts, yoghurt, and fruit on hand to satisfy mid-morning or afternoon cravings.
- Drink before you eat: Feeling hungry is frequently caused by your brain misinterpreting thirst, so the next time the office biscuit tin tempts you, drink a glass of water instead.
Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider.