Working in an office job isn’t great for your health. While some people work outdoors in active roles, you spend eight hours a day sat at a desk, burning very few calories and hurting your back from being bent over a computer. Then there’s the constant supply of biscuits and birthday cakes, the stress, and all the germs you’re exposed to from everyone’s colds.
But don’t worry; working in an office doesn’t mean consigning yourself to a life of poor health. There’s plenty you can do to make sure you’re fit, well and eating a good diet. Here are our top tips for making sure sitting at a desk doesn’t lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Walk, walk, walk
You might think you don’t need to worry about sitting for too long. After all, you exercise regularly, so surely you’re making up for all that time sat down, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal found that excessive periods of sitting reduce a person’s life expectancy no matter how much they exercise.
In fact, we’ve already written about this; our infographic, Sitting is the New Smoking, shows the health risks that a sedentary lifestyle brings with it. With a title like that, you can tell that we think it’s a big deal.
Don’t worry though; you can fight back against this. One of the best things you can do to prevent the health issues associated with being sedentary is to walk as much as possible. If you have a phone call to make, for example, why not take it outside on your mobile phone so you can walk while you work?
Similarly, try to be the person who offers to pick up milk or goes to the shops to get a last-minute birthday card for your boss. It will break up your day, reducing the amount of time you spend continuously sat down.
Take small breaks
In fact, it’s a good idea to take small breaks as much as possible, rather than saving it all up for an hour at lunch. Part of this is to break up the sitting and give you excuses to walk, but it also helps fix posture and vision problems that hours of office work every day can cause.
Being hunched over a computer can cause back problems over long periods of time, and staring at a screen all day will lead to headaches, eye strain and even long-term vision problems. The best way to remedy these is to take a break away from your desk as often as possible.
Obviously we’re not advocating slacking off at work, but instead of a single hour-long lunch period it might be better to take ten five-minute breaks throughout the day. If they are evenly spread, it will reduce the amount of time spent staring at a screen and hunched over, giving your back and eyes a chance to rest.
One of the big problems with office jobs is that they tend to be associated with high levels of stress. The pressures of your job, combined with a reluctance to admit when you’re struggling, can cause a lot of mental distress and lead to physical health problems, as well as conditions like depression.
Probably the most effective way of dealing with this is through meditation. While in the long run, it’s best to work out a way of fixing your work-life balance, meditating is a great way of dealing with stress in the short term. If you need to take 15 minutes out to calm down, or just need a two-minute boost to your mood, it is a great technique to learn.
Meditating doesn’t mean crossing your legs and chanting, of course. It’s more about focusing on your breathing and your body, allowing you to cope better with stress. There are plenty of guides to it, and even apps like Headspace that help teach you how to meditate for whatever reason.
Leave the office for lunch
Offices can be a haven for germs. That many people crammed into a small space, with recycled air, shared bathrooms and a shared kitchen? It’s a recipe for disaster. People often catch bugs in an office environment, not helped by people being reluctant to take sick days when they are ill.
To avoid falling victim to this, try to get out of the office as much as you can. Your lunch time is a good opportunity; although as mentioned earlier, it’s better not to take a long one and instead have several smaller breaks throughout the day.
However, getting out of the office and into some fresh air is a good opportunity for your immune system to recover, and for you to get some much-needed sunlight. However, don’t take this as an opportunity to buy junk food for lunch!