In recent years the press has given a lot of attention to the negative effects of sitting. Sitting is the new smoking, some headlines have read, causing worry among office workers around the world. This may be an exaggeration, but there’s certainly a lot that’s unhealthy about desk work — and it’s not limited to sitting. Office work can cause muscle sprains, eyestrain, and low vitamin D levels just to name but a few problems. However, by taking the right precautions, you can mitigate the health costs of the sitting and save yourself some problems down the line.
If your employer offers any ergonomics resources, use them. However, as a starting point, your hips should be at the back of the chair with your back straight and supported. Your feet should be flat on the ground, and your forearms roughly parallel to the ground when your arms are on your desk, so your elbow forms a 90-degree angle. Your monitor should be your arm’s length away, and the top of the monitor should be at eye level.
Your eyes – the 20/20/20 rule
By focusing your eyes on your monitor 8+ hours a day, you are overusing the muscles that focus your vision on this short distance. So utilize the 20/20/20 rule — every 20 minutes (at least), focus on something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. You can also move your eyes slowly in circles, or cup your palms over your eyes for 20 seconds to help them relax.
As a desk worker, you are locking your body in the seated position for most of your waking day. This can cause muscles and tendons to tighten, so it’s important to stretch your body at least twice a day, ideally on your lunch break and after work. Pay particular attention to the hamstrings, hip flexors, and pectorals. Doing a yoga class several times a week would be helpful too.
The body expects movement, and a sedentary lifestyle is linked to numerous health conditions, including obesity, cancer, and depression. So try to get up and walk for a few minutes every hour. Walk to the other side of the office, walk up and down a few flights of stairs, or do some bodyweight exercises like squats (hide in a toilet cubicle if you want). This is essential, even if you are an active gym rat outside of office hours — you have to be active throughout the day, not just in one intense burst at the end of it.
Get some light
Desk workers can go a whole day without seeing sunlight, especially in winter. You drive to work in the dark, spend all day inside, eat lunch at your desk, then drive home in the dark again. This can lead to low vitamin D levels, which has a host of negative impacts on your health and mood. Wherever possible, go outside on your lunch breaks and get some natural light — and walk around while you do so.
The old age
Prevention, as you know, is better than the cure. By following these guidelines you can save yourself unnecessary cost and suffering in the future. But realize that this is an ongoing process — it’s no use fixing your posture today and then reverting to old habits tomorrow. You have to constantly remind yourself of what you need to do. So bookmark this page and review this article once a month to keep these principles fresh in your mind.