Many people work in an office hunched over a screen all day. There are numerous studies that showcase just how dangerous this lifestyle is, some even dubbing it as deadly as excessive drinking or drug usage. After all, nobody wants to believe their cushy desk job is slowly doing them harm.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can combat this risky lifestyle. However, it’s going to involve big changes that take you out of your comfort zone. If you want to combat obesity, atrophied muscle mass, and giving in to options like caffeine loading in order to get through the day, here are a few ways office workers can optimize health:
- Stand up. If possible, start working at least part of the day standing. You don’t need a fancy treadmill desk to make this happen, and in fact these machines can actually cause you to struggle as your body tries to multi-task. However, in some places (like Japan) the majority of workers take care of their job standing. It also gives you a chance to practice better posture.
- Prioritize posture. Whether you stand or sit at work, you can always improve your posture. Follow good ergonomic rules, such as keeping head, shoulders, and hips in alignment. Make sure wrists are relaxed and not at an odd angle while you type. Keep the chin level with the floor. If seated, avoid crossing your legs and make sure both feet are firmly on the ground.
- Make sure your desk setup is ergonomic, too. There are plenty of ergonomic tools available, including chairs, desks, and wrist pads. These “helpers” can increase your odds of living an ergonomic life at work. For many people, they’re familiar with and comfortable with non-ergonomic positions. It will take commitment and getting used to new approaches.
- Get up, move, and stretch at least every 20 minutes. You might feel productive with an hours-long marathon typing away, but your body and brain are begging for a break. Even if you don’t think you need it, schedule a pop-up to remind yourself to get up and move for at least five minutes.
- Go outside on your breaks whenever possible. There’s a truth behind the idea that fresh air leads to mental clarity. Take advantage of your breaks and take a quick walk around the block. You’ll return refreshed, energized, and less likely to reach for coffee.
- Bring healthy snacks. If your office is the type that’s always full of junk food and there’s a sheet cake every week for someone’s birthday, you need to have your healthy alternatives readily available. It will still be difficult to buck the system and deal with snide comments from co-workers, but they’ll quickly get used to your healthier lifestyle. As a bonus, always having healthy snacks at the office minimizes the allure of spending money on always eating out.
- Make use of your lunch hour. During the longest break of the day, marry a healthy lunch with exercise or simply being outdoors. Resist the urge to eat at your desk where you’ll likely do more work than re-energizing. Legally, you’re entitled to a certain amount of time away from your desk each day for lunch—make use of it. If you’re a lunchtime exerciser, prioritize hitting the gym.
- Set a limit on work happy hours. Some offices have a tradition of going to happy hour at least once a week. It’s a great time to form bonds and maybe even cozy up to a promotion, but be careful. These outings are costly and are usually calorie-laden. Determine what you feel is an adequate amount to be social, and avoid saying yes to every invitation.
Office work doesn’t have to come with lethargy and overdoing it on unhealthy snacks. How will you increase your health even if you’re surrounded by colleagues who aren’t the most inspiring when it comes to wellness?
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.