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3 Simple Ways to Make Your Desk Job Healthier

If you are like many Americans, you spend large portions of your day sitting in front of a computer.  This habit has taken a toll on our bodies.  Research shows that not only do we have an increased risk of obesity, but our hearts and muscles weaken putting us at risk for other diseases.

But in today’s technology based world, how can we change our daily routines to reduce these risks? 

1. Practice Good Posture.

Adopting a poor posture while working at a computer station causes muscles to use extra energy.  Fatigue can result from poor posturing. Good posturing, however, helps to decrease the amount of energy used. It also reduces the stress on the neck and spine which can decrease pain.

Contrary to popular thought, good posturing is not just sitting up straighter. To achieve and maintain a proper posture position, contraction of the abdominal muscles is essential.  While most people use their shoulders to help sit straighter, it is the abdominals that need to be activated for a more upright position.

It is important to note that sitting with good posture is only one part of the equation!   

Try this for better posture:

Tighten your stomach muscles as though you are trying to put on a tight pair of pants.  What happens to your posture?   

2. Work and Move Cycle.

A common strategy used by ergonomic experts is to implement breaks throughout the day.  Yet once our brains are involved in our projects, it seems as though we enter a time warp and 2 hours pass before we realize we haven’t moved! We can’t trust ourselves to take breaks when we need them. 

Trying to remember to move while during work is not an easy task. Unfortunately, this type of dedication to work has a price.  Pain, fatigue, and medical complications are just a few of these consequences.

Breaks don’t mean you have to stop working.  You can stand at your desk, walk around while you are returning phone calls, or sneak in a few standing stretches to while filing paperwork.  Finding small ways to create movement during the day will make a big difference.

Besides scheduling movement during the workday, general exercise will help you improve your health.

Try this for to add movement throughout your work day:

Set a timer for 45 minutes. When the timer dings, it is time for you to stop whatever you are doing and stand up. Perhaps you can take a walk to the bathroom, stretch, grab water or a snack.  Move in any way you can for 15 minutes.  When you return to your desk, set the timer again.  Practice taking regular scheduled breaks throughout the day.

3. Exercise outside of work

A great way to combat the consequences of sitting all day is by exercising.  Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.  In fact, it is better if it is not.  Find a dance class, walk with friends, go to a gym, learn to swim, play basketball with the neighborhood kids or practice yoga. 

Most healthy adults need approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to maintain good health.  That is just over 21 minutes per day for moderate exercise and only 10 minutes a day for vigorous exercise!  Your body deserves that time.

Try this to start an exercise routine outside of work:

Set a goal for something you have always wanted to accomplish.  Want to run a 5K?  How about finally be able to walk up that big hill without being out of breath?  Maybe you would like to be able to play on the trampoline with your kids.  Whatever that goal is, begin with small baby steps.  When the baby steps get easier, push yourself a little more.  Having an end goal in mind helps you to measure your progress and stay more consistent with your routine.

Conclusion

Practicing good posture, creating a regular break schedule and starting an exercise routine are three simple steps you can take to reduce the health risks associated with working at a desk all day.

Still unsure how to improve your health at work?  Schedule an examination with a physical therapist. He or she can assess your work space and suggest concrete ways that you can improve your health.