From computer software developers to truck drivers, sedentary jobs make up a good portion of today’s employment market. But while sitting may be necessary for many workers, doing it for hours at a time can be harmful to the body and mind. Back problems, digestive trouble, headaches, and depression are just a few complications that can arise from sedentary jobs. With some simple do’s and don’ts, though, sedentary workers can alleviate the side effects of too much sitting–and be more productive at their jobs. Here’s how:
Do compensate for all the sitting. When you sit all day, you burn few calories and don’t give your muscles a chance to move. Fortunately, there are ways to compensate for too much sitting. Although regular daily exercise offers many health perks, other health habits are especially important for sedentary workers. Taking short activity breaks, standing and stretching, using the stairs, and consuming nutritious meals and snacks help make up for too much sitting. Physical activity and healthy eating don’t just benefit the body; they improve attitude and work ethic too.
Do pay attention to your posture. Sitting too much can take a toll on posture. In fact, the longer people sit, the more apt they are to hunch over and slouch. What’s worse, poor posture can affect a person’s overall well-being, resulting in everything from spinal curvature to anxiety. Being properly fitted to a desk and chair can help, but so can making a few adjustments to your posture. Try sitting straight, with the back supported, shoulders relaxed, head level, and feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Then make every effort to practice good posture throughout the day.
Do stay hydrated. Even though you may not be working up a thirst sitting at your desk, it’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Not only is water good for your digestion and metabolism, it will help keep you alert and energized. Plus, it’ll force you to get up from your desk regularly to use the bathroom. Have a water bottle within reach and fill it throughout the day. Although drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, other healthy liquids, like teas and low-sugar juices, work too. Avoid drinking too much soda or caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
Don’t do everything at your workspace. If you can help it, don’t add more sitting time to your day than necessary. If you sit at a desk all day, move to a conference room to work on a project, or find a spot in the employee lounge to read a report. Make an effort to get away from your chair or seat at lunch too, whether you join a friend at a restaurant, head to the cafeteria, or take your meal to a park bench outside. Short respites from your workspace seating will give your body a much-needed break, eliminate feelings of isolation, and help you refresh and recharge.
Don’t ignore pain. If you have a stiff back, sore eyes, or cramps in your legs, don’t just brush those symptoms off as part of the job. When pain hits, do something about it right away. You may be able to alleviate discomfort with something as simple as standing, stretching, or closing your eyes for a few minutes. Or it could be that you need to change the lighting or other aspect of your work area. One thing’s for certain: if you don’t deal with pain issues right away, they can continue or worsen, which can lead to more serious trouble down the road.
Don’t give in to the sedentary lifestyle. People who sit a lot tend to grow lazy, overeat, and turn their regular daytime sitting into a routine lifestyle. Don’t let that happen to you. If you’re a sedentary worker, make every attempt to keep your mind and body active as often as possible. Whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to grow slack in choosing healthy lifestyle habits. Instead, stay positive and proactive, and try to be a leader and supporter for other co-workers who might be heading down the sedentary lifestyle path.
Although sedentary work is common today, having a job that requires a lot of sitting doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your body and mind. The above do’s and don’ts can help you avoid health problems from a sedentary job, and make your work effort more effective.