Melanie-m on Flickr 3 tips to help you stay healthy at work

From stiffness and back pain to headaches and eyestrain, being stuck at a desk all day can seriously impact your health. Fortunately, there are ways you can combat these issues without even leaving your desk.

How to improve your physical activity at work

Exercise is key for keeping your body functioning well and burning calories to prevent unwanted weight gain, so it’s vital to get up and moving throughout the day. What’s more, spending prolonged periods of time sitting down has also been identified as a risk factor for various health issues, so it’s really important for those who work at a desk to schedule in activity throughout the day. Why not:

  • Make a point of standing up and moving at least once an hour throughout the day. Get a coffee or tea, refill your water bottle or simply walk across the office to speak to a colleague rather than emailing them. You could even try organising a “walking meeting”, when you meet up with your team to discuss ideas while going for a stroll – it’s much more energising than sitting in a stuffy boardroom, and can help stimulate creativity and bonding. You could also invest in a headset and stand while making phone calls to further cut down your sitting time. Even fidgeting has the power to burn calories – so start tapping your toes while you sit! This keeps your muscles from stiffening into one position (contributing to back pain and poor posture) and helps with circulation.
  • If you spend the day staring intently at a computer screen, remember to look away occasionally at something far away for at least a minute or two – this gives your eye muscles a chance to relax and can help alleviate eyestrain and headaches.
  • Get away from your desk at lunchtime – go for a run, attend a gym class or simply take a brisk stroll around the block. You’ll feel calmer, more energetic and focused when you get back to your desk, and burn some calories too.
  • If you’re having an exceptionally busy day and simply can’t leave your desk, there are a range of toning and stretching exercises you can do right in your chair. Most are fairly discreet, so even if you work in an open-plan office, it shouldn’t prove disruptive to your colleagues – they may even wish to join in. Exercises that involve lifting or pulling your own body weight are ideal as they don’t require any equipment. These handy toning exercises compiled by Forbes, such as the sitting spinal stretch and the feet-up hamstring stretch, will help relieve aches and tension, while triceps desk dips and the invisible chair sit will help to strengthen the muscles. Even something as simple as clenching your glutes while you sit or pulling in your abs can have a toning effect and help improve circulation.

How to improve your nutrition at work

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When at work, we tend to opt for convenience or comfort over nutrition when choosing our midday meal. Instead of hitting that greasy takeaway at lunchtime or snacking on crisps or chocolate from the vending machine, why not:

  • Bring healthy food from home – it’s easier than you think to prepare healthy lunches in advance. Not only will you have more control over the calorie, fat and sugar content of your food, but you’ll likely save money too.
  • Keep healthy snacks at your desk. Almonds, rice cakes with hummus or peanut butter, raw vegetables with dip and fresh fruit with low-fat yoghurt are all great choices that will keep your energy levels stable between meals and help you resist the temptation to go for fatty, sugar-laden treats.
  • If you must eat out, choose local cafés or healthy fast food chains that serve up fresh ingredients without lots of additives. Go for a hearty vegetable or bean soup, salad (watch the dressing) or a sandwich with lean meats such as chicken or turkey and a low-fat spread such as mustard instead of a greasy burger or pizza.

How to improve your mental health at work

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This is a frequently overlooked area of health that can have just as big an impact on your wellbeing and productivity as any physical illness. Mental health issues – including stress, depression, anxiety and overwork, as well as other serious conditions – not only affect morale and efficiency in the workplace, but they can have knock-on effects in other areas. For instance, a stressed worker may resort to alcohol or smoking in order to cope. Similarly, they may feel too overwhelmed to exercise, and may make poor food choices. To keep feeling great at work, both physically and mentally, why not:

  • Try to maintain a good work-life balance. Leave the office at a reasonable time each day, and designate at least some time each week when you cannot be contacted by phone or email for work purposes. It’s important to have time to unwind and switch off from the office.
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day. Spending even just a few minutes away can help improve your focus and alleviate feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Try meditating – even five minutes of sitting in silence while emptying your mind can leave you refreshed and feeling calmer. See if your workplace has a designated relaxation space or quiet zone where you can spend a few minutes during your workday.

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