Working in a setting in which you must be sedentary most of the day can have health implications. Those who work in offices, cubicles, or those who frequently travel, often sit the majority of their day—and most of the time these individuals are in front of a computer or a meeting. There are physical and mental health concerns for those who hold sedentary jobs and do not try to take breaks and stay active during the workday, especially those who go home to a sedentary lifestyle.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 to 85% of people in the world—from both developed and developing countries—lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health problems of our time.
- increase all causes of mortality;
- double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity;
- increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders;
- Increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
Not only are those consequences problematic, but sitting in front of a computer has its own set of issues. People who frequently use a computer or tablet for work may be affected by posture issues, joint and muscle aches or injuries, hand or arm overuse, and eyestrain.
None of those issues sound like a good time! Save your money and livelihood and take action now to get healthier at work.
What can you do to be more physically active during the day?
The key to preventing physical and mental consequences from being sedentary the majority of the day is to be creative and find ways to get up and moving while you work.
Here are several examples of mini-breaks and activities that you can start to add to your work schedule. The goal is to get up and moving!
- Walk during your phone breaks
Whether you’re on the phone or a Zoom call (depending on the situation), go ahead and stand up and move around some. Tell yourself ahead of time that any phone call received means to answer it then get up and walk around the office; or go outside with the phone if it’s cordless. Even just standing up and walking in place or stretching is better than sitting around.
- Buy a standing desk
A standing desk can be purchased at any office-type store, but you can also find them on Amazon. These are typically set on top of your original desk and can be elevated so that you can work off the standing desk while…well, standing! Even if you aren’t able to walk around, standing periodically is better than sitting. An article from Healthline discusses some of the benefits of using a standing desk:
- Burn more calories
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Reduce back pain
- Improve mood and energy levels
- Boost productivity
Sit on a yoga ball while working
Depending on the height of your desk, you may be able to sit on a yoga ball while getting some work done. Using a yoga ball helps improve posture, it works your core whether you realize it or not, and you can bounce around a bit if you’re a fidgety individual. There are specific yoga balls for purchase that are specifically used to sit on at work and have an elevated base to make it easier to use them in front of a desk.
On a similar note, bring a yoga mat to work and get in some stretching or mindfulness time when needed.
- Walk during lunch and take a break on the stairs
The more often you get up and moving, the better. Take advantage of small breaks and lunchtime by walking around, enjoy the fresh air, or go up and down the stairs a few times. Grab a co-worker and make it a regular event!
- Track your steps
Many people have some sort of activity tracker, whether it be a FitBit, an Apple Watch, or their phone. Use yours to set a daily goal specifically during the workday. Try to meet your goal each day by moving around more. If you don’t meet your goal during the day, go home and make up for it by walking the dog around the neighborhood or hitting the tennis ball with your friend.
- Form a group or find an accountability partner
Oftentimes, businesses and organizations have fitness/walking competitions based on their activity trackers—and sometimes have prizes for the winning group or individual! Have some fun and create an accountability group, or at least find someone willing to help keep you accountable and get more active with you. Form an activity group and see who can get in the most steps during the workdays each week.
Other things you can do to stay healthy at work
While staying active during work should definitely be a goal, there are other things you can do throughout your 9 to 5 to stay physically and mentally healthy.
- Eat well
- Stay hydrated
- Practice mindfulness
- Take deep breaths when stressed
- Take enough breaks
- Find reasons to smile and laugh
Don’t let work stress you out or drag you down! Stay active and healthy at work to improve your overall health and mood. It’ll also make the day go by faster and hopefully help you to become more productive.
Did you know?
The CDC is working with communities and partners across the country as part of the Active People, Healthy NationSM initiative, to make it easier, safer, and more convenient for people to be active where they live, learn, work and play. The overall goal of the initiative is to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027 to improve overall health and quality of life and to reduce healthcare costs.
Check it out and get involved!