Working at a desk means staying out of the frigid winter elements—at least for the most part. But that doesn’t mean office work doesn’t come with its share of health risks.
The detrimental health effects of sitting at a desk all day encompass the biggest risk, but that daily donut or sugary latte and dry indoor air also pose risks, especially during cold and flu season. Here are six tips to help make your desk job good for your health!
1. Avoid Sugary and Empty-Calorie Snacks
Consuming too many empty calories is a bad idea. This is even worse when it’s sugary snacks that could lead to the development of Type II diabetes. Laying off the sugar is more difficult when you work in an office where the receptionist’s candy dish is always overflowing, and a meeting isn’t considered a meeting if no one brings donuts.
It takes more than willpower—it takes a proactive approach. Make sure your desk drawer is well stocked with healthy snacks, such as nuts and fruit. Keep low-fat string cheese and Greek yogurt in your office Frigidaire. Just having something else to consume instead of sugary treats can help stave off temptation.
2. Bring a Lunch
When the day is long and the lunch hour is short, hitting the drive-thru can seem like your best choice for a filling bite on the go. However, while it’s okay to have fast food as an occasional treat, doing so too often can throw your healthy diet out of whack.
Instead, bring your lunch to work! If you’re truly ambitious, there are tons of free resources online as to how to meal prep on Sunday to prepare you for the week. But even if spending your weekend doling out perfect portions isn’t your cup of tea, a quick stop at the grocery store allows you to dine far better—and more inexpensively—than you would on fast food fare.
Many grocery stores even have installed grab-and-go resources for busy workers right in the front of the store stocked with salads, wraps, soups, and other healthy fares. Skip the drive-thru to save some money and some calories by brown-bagging it.
3. Move Regularly
Even if you are a desk jockey, getting up and moving is critical for your overall health. The obvious benefit of getting up from your desk more often? You burn more calories, and you increase your energy levels. The unexpected benefit? Moving regularly helps to protect your brain health, as well.
When you sit for long periods of time, the blood flow to your brain is restricted. This can lead to low energy in the short-term and possibly permanent neurological deficits over the long-term. But getting up for just two minutes every half hour reverses this lack of blood flow to the brain. Moving frequently also helps the body avoid misinterpreting boredom or lethargy from hours of sitting into hunger pains.
To boost your productivity and brain power, get up and move often! You can also look into whether your organization will provide you with an adjustable desk that alternates from a seated position to standing to get you up and moving more often.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
We all know we should drink at least eight glasses of water per day, but this becomes especially critical when you work in an office. The dry, indoor air in many office spaces can wreak havoc on your complexion, leaving it dull and ashy-looking. Not only that, but dehydration often masks itself as hunger pains. If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to think you’re hungry than merely thirsty.
Invest in a high-quality, reusable water bottle, and keep it filled and at the ready at your desk. Sip on it regularly. If you need a reminder, why not set an alert on your smartphone? By staying hydrated, you’ll both combat cravings and keep your skin fresh and rosy.
5. Focus on Your Posture
Roughly 80 percent of adults will struggle with lower back pain at some point in their lives, and that number undoubtedly is affected by the modern-day popularity of chair-bound office work. Be honest—how many times per day do you find yourself slumped at your desk? Many of us practice poor posture almost all of the time without even realizing it. This can lead to chronic back pain, particularly in the lower back, and even a misshapen curvature of the spine over time.
To perfect your posture, stand straight against a wall with just your buttocks, shoulder blades and the back of your head touching. This will put your spine in alignment. If you find it difficult to maintain this position in your current office chair, look into ergonomic alternatives meant to force your spine into its natural curve. As a bonus, sitting up straight will keep your core strength strong.
6. Follow Good Basic Hygiene Rules
Finally, as every office worker knows, when one person in the office gets sick, pretty much everyone ends up getting sick. To avoid this, take measures to prevent the spread of germs.
Keep hand sanitizer on your desk and use it regularly. While washing with soap and water is the best way to remove microbes, in some situations, such as busy office spaces, hand sanitizer can make for a good substitute. Desk surfaces usually are awash in germs due to all the hands upon them with little attention paid to cleaning. Keep antibacterial cleaning wipes available, and wipe down your desk, mouse, and computer keyboard regularly.
Finally, if you fall sick, stay home until you’re past the contagious period. If you have work that absolutely can’t wait, ask your manager if you can work on these tasks from home. Better yet, rest up!
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