When you spend hours churning out work at a desk, it's easy to forget that your body isn’t working nearly as hard as your brain. Desk jobs are prevalent in many corporate, technological, intellectual and creative fields, increasing your risk of adopting sedentary work habits that open the door to spinal deterioration, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Make your physical wellness a priority, and use these tips to incorporate healthy practices into your workday.
Improve your posture. Working a desk job for extended periods places excess pressure on spinal discs, and poor posture increases deterioration by forcing the lumbar region of your spine to support more of your upper body weight.
Adjust your office chair to a 90-degree angle, and sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed and your feet flat on the ground, making sure you don’t slump forward. If you find it hard to maintain a straight posture, consider switching out your office chair for an exercise ball or stool. Backless seating forces your core muscles to support your upper body.
Rest your eyes. Computer-based desk jobs make you susceptible to eye strain. Whenever you’re not actively using the computer, look away from the screen periodically to avoid symptoms of computer vision syndrome, including headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and double vision.
Leave your desk. Don’t skip opportunities to move around. Take a walk during your lunch break, ditch elevators for stairs and offer to handle errands that require traveling around the office. Integrate planned breaks into repetitive desk jobs by getting up every 50 to 60 minutes to give yourself a moment to stretch and shake your arms. Co-workers may find your daily rituals amusing, but these healthy work habits improve blood circulation and give your body a burst of renewed energy.
Improve your workspace ergonomics. Unless you're self-employed, you rarely have control over the workspace layouts of desk jobs. Regardless, you can protect yourself from neck strain by positioning your computer monitor at eye level. If your setup doesn't have a built-in method to change the height, invest in a low-cost monitor or laptop stand.
Use a cushioned mousepad or a keyboard with a cushioned rest to pad your wrists, and keep your hands and arms in a comfortable typing position to reduce stress on your elbows, shoulders and upper back. When you're not typing, relax your hands and periodically stretch and bend your fingers and wrists to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Start an exercise routine. Performing regular aerobic exercise before or after your workday gives your muscles and bones the strength they need to endure long periods of inactivity. Aim to incorporate moderate exercise at least three or four times a week to boost the flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles, heart and respiratory system. Fill your diet with nutrient-rich foods that help you feel energized and less likely to slack off at work.
Employers don't always consider the benefits of fostering a company culture where employees are encouraged to improve productivity by prioritizing their physical well-being. If your desk job offers few opportunities to get up or take breaks, find creative ways to exercise at your workspace, such as leg raises, standing leg curls and core twists.
Photo courtesy of Weldon Kennedy at Flickr