Whether you’re already keeping fit or looking to improve on your activity levels, your desk job is likely having a negative impact on your physical health. Yes, most of us spend the majority of our week in the workplace, and mostly sitting down. Being in the seated work environment for long periods of time seriously impacts on how we live the rest of our lives.
This sedentary lifestyle that takes up over 40 hours of your week puts your body under serious distress. Long periods of uninterrupted sitting reduces and slows blood flow, which can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, plaque build-up in the arteries and depression.
The stress, long hours, and sedentary nature of your modern “safe” office job is quite literally sucking the life out of you. Research has even suggested that there is a direct relationship between the hours we spend at a desk and early mortality rates. The lack of physical activity, movement, diet, stress, tight deadlines, sneezing colleagues and filthy keyboard are all out to get you. That’s just scary, but what can be done when there is money to be made, families that rely on us, and the ball and chain around our ankle is firmly clamped to the desk?
If you work at a desk, you want to stand up to read this. You could be classed as a desk jockey, which is not a good place to be regarding your health and fitness. Sitting down all day is taking years off your life. You wouldn’t have caught a caveman sitting around for 40 plus hours a week, our body simply was not designed for it. Men who regularly sit for more than six hours a day are 20% more likely to die over a given period, compared to those who sit for just three (1). Now consider that the average man spends 9.3 hours a day sitting down, outweighing the 7.7 hours he spends asleep.
These facts and figures lead us down a dark road, as spending this amount of time in a sedentary job role makes us twice as likely to experience cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs. Additionally, the risk of developing colon cancer and obesity shoots through the roof, as well as the risk of diabetes increasing by an overwhelming 112%.
We certainly don’t expect you to hand in your notice this afternoonand peruse a new activity based career. But we are suggesting raising your awareness about your day job, and what you can do to reduce the hours spent slumped in one position.
Sitting for lengthy periods is very poor practice for your body. Hours of sedentary and stressful work under bad office lighting, often in isolation or with colleagues experiencing the same conditions, can be having a big impact on your mental and physical health. Now throw in the long commute to work, the breakfast that you missed this morning and the wide selection of fast food you’re craving from the canteen or vending machine. One of the worst and one of the most unavoidable parts about office life is sitting all day.
While we sit we are also endlessly starring at a computer screen. We are harming our vision as we strain ourselves over time to manage our workload through a computer. But, we also do this while we expose ourselves to further headaches and migraines.
We recommend making as many excuses as possible to leave your seated position and get away from your desk! Changing your posture every 8 minutes is expected to prevent repetitive strain injury and postural discomfort. Active breaks away from your desk are required at least every 30 minutes.
These excuses can come in all shapes and sizes, starting with your commute. Could you cycle to work? Park further away? Or get off the bus one stop before your usual exit and walk the rest of the way? This way the fresh air will clear your mind, lower stress levels as well as boost your metabolism. Also, challenge yourself to take the stairs rather than the lift or escalator when working in high-rise buildings.
Meetings on the move, whenever you need to meet with a colleague try suggesting you go for a walk. Leave the building and do a loop. Not only does this allow for your creative side to flow better but you encourage blood flow around the body. This goes for telephone calls – try using a headset, so you can at least stand up or even walk around whilst performing better at your job (2).
Speed walking is a great way of boosting your activity. Whether you’re sending documents to the printer or heading for a meeting, try speed walking! This boost to your heart rate and metabolism is great! Once you get used to speed walking errands, try sending your documents to the printer on the floor above or below. You could even make emails a thing of the past and walk to see your colleague instead of replying “yes, ok” whilst seated.
Furthermore you can work out at your desk. If your office space allows, you can actually swap your chair for an exercise ball (3). These are safe pieces of equipment that engage your core strength and balance whilst working. Also whilst sitting at your desk you can flex and tighten your abs, glutes and do calf raises. Try 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off and you can be getting in shape without anyone knowing! It’s all about making movement a natural part of your working day.