From stiffness and back pain to headaches and eyestrain, being stuck at a desk all day can seriously impact your wellbeing. Fortunately, there are ways you can combat these issues and improve your health 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. What’s more, spending prolonged periods of time sitting down has been identified as a risk factor for various health issues. For those who work at a desk, it’s really important to keep activity levels up throughout the day.
- Stand up and move 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 organise a “walking meeting”, and meet 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. Consider investing in a headset and stand while making phone calls to further reduce your sitting time. Even fidgeting has the power to burn calories – so start tapping your toes while you sit! Your muscles are less like to stiffen into one position (contributing to back pain) and circulation and posture are improved.
- Research by Millward Brown shows that we spend an average of 418 minutes per day looking at screens. This can have a negative effect on eye health, so take regular breaks if you use a computer. Your eye muscles will have a chance to relax, headaches and blurred vision as a result of eye strain.
- Get away from your desk at lunchtime – go for a run, attend a gym class or stroll around the block. You’ll feel calmer, more energetic and focused when you get back to your desk, and burn some calories too.
- On exceptionally busy days when can’t leave your desk, there are lots of toning and stretching exercises you can do right in your chair. Most are fairly discreet, so in an open-plan office, it shouldn’t disrupt your colleagues. They may even want 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
We tend to opt for convenience or comfort over nutrition when choosing our midday meal at work. 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 way, you can benefit from fresh ingredients without lots of additives. A hearty vegetable or bean soup, salad (watch the dressing) or a sandwich with lean meat and a low-fat spread is a much better option than a greasy burger or pizza.
How to improve your mental health at work
Mental health is frequently overlooked but can have just as big an impact on your wellbeing and productivity as any physical illness. Issues like stress, depression, anxiety and overwork – plus more serious conditions can affect morale and efficiency in the workplace as well as 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 help you feel less overwhelmed.
- Try meditation – even five minutes of sitting in silence while emptying your mind can leave you refreshed and feeling calmer. Your workplace may have a designated quiet zone where you can spend a few minutes during your workday.