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Help Minimise the Health Risks of Sitting at a Desk All Day

We used to work the land all day doing back-breaking jobs, but now it turns out that sitting in our comfortable office chairs and staring at a computer screen can be just as bad for us – if not worse. Science says that prolonged sedentary periods slow down your metabolism, affecting your body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and metabolise fat. As well as potentially leading to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, spending too much time sitting down is also thought to weaken bones and muscles. It goes without saying that these problems can also reduce the quality and longitude of your life.

Girl stretching

But there are ways to improve this issue with just a little effort. Here we look at seven different ways you can minimise the health risks of sitting at a desk all day.

  1. Take regular breaks from your desk
    It's important to spend some time away from your desk, so try to get up and walk around every hour or so, even if it's just to pick up a coffee or a healthy snack. Just a few minutes' break will recharge your mental batteries while you get in some gentle exercise. Now you also have an excuse to catch up with the water-cooler gossip!

  2. Rotate standing and sitting throughout your day where possible
    This will take a bit of getting used to, but it's worth it. Try to schedule in periods where you work standing up, for example by popping your laptop on a filing cabinet or, better yet, asking your company to install standing desks.

    If this sounds like it will not work for you, choose a regular activity that you can easily do standing up, such as taking or making phone calls, and ensure you're never sitting down when you complete it. You can gradually add more standing activities as you get used to doing this.

  3. Aid good posture with a back support and/or brace
    There are plenty of office add-ons, such as back supports, that are inexpensive and ergonomically designed to help aid good posture. Even just using it for small amounts of time helps to train your body into sitting correctly when you’re not using the back support.

  4. Don’t forget to stretch your limbs and back
    Simple stretches are easy to incorporate into your work day and are a great way to take stock and refresh yourself at regular intervals. Try learning a 'deskercise' routine, like this one, to ensure you keep your blood flowing.

  5. Make sure your desk space is ergonomically adjusted You can adjust your chair and sitting posture properly to avoid injury by using these tips from UCLA. It also suggests you should never have to overreach for the everyday items you use at your workspace. Try to keep your electronics as close to you as possible and use an ergonomically-friendly keyboard and mouse if you can.

  6. Keep your eye prescription up to date to avoid straining
    Whether you wear glasses or contacts, be sure to make regular appointments with your opticians so you can ensure you're not hunching over and straining to see the screen. If you think you have 20/20 vision but regularly find yourself squinting to read those meeting notes, it's best to schedule an appointment to get your eyes checked. If you have private health insurance, you may be covered for optical services, giving you even more incentive to book an appointment.

  7. When travelling home, cycle or walk part of the way or stand up to offer your seat
    Instead of driving to work or having to sit down on public transport, make tracks towards a healthier lifestyle by cycling or walking. Even if you live far away from your office, you could take public transport part of the way and then cycle or walk the rest. Alternatively, offer your seat up to someone who looks like they need it more than you do.

    While many people may have difficulties implementing all of these seven tips into their work day, it’s important to try to find ways to fit one or more into your daily routine to help minimise the sitting health risks. Just spending some time during the day standing and moving around may have a big impact on your overall productivity and well-being while at work, so start standing and get moving!