Updated: May 5, 2019
Sitting at a desk all day sounds like the norm if, like me, you have a 9-5 office job. Because of technology, you literally never have to leave your chair for anything (unless, you know, you have to go to the bathroom). And while the idea of hanging at your desk until 5 p.m. may sound like a dream, it’s actually pretty detrimental to your health. Aside from neck and back pain, it can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, and even death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, in an effort to be more health-conscious, here are eight small changes you can make at work to increase your activity and improve your overall health.
1. Take hourly breaks.
Sitting at your desk for hours and hours can really damage your health: too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes and even dementia.Sitting can be seen as the new smoking and it’s definitely a good idea to break the habit. Try getting up from your desk once an hour and moving around for about five minutes. This will activate muscles and promote blood flow. And if you’re someone who is fully consumed by your workload, set a timer for once an hour so you’re reminded to take breaks, even when you’re super busy.
2. Go out for lunch.
While ordering food directly to your office may sound amazing, eating and working at the same time doesn’t do wonders for your physical health. Take advantage of your lunch break and walk to to get lunch instead of ordering in. You’ll move your muscles, get fresh air, and even have some time to chat with co-workers (rather than staring at your computer screen for hours on end). Sometimes it’s hard to take a break when you have a lot on your plate, but getting out of the office will refresh your body and your brain—even if it’s a 15-minute date with a park bench and your brown-bag lunch.
3. Stand instead of sit.
Just because you have a desk doesn’t mean you need to sit. As an alternative, elevate your computer with a riser so you can stand, or if that’s not an option, move to another spot in the office where there’s a taller platform for your computer. You can also invest in an ergonomic workstation or, if you’re really fancy, purchase a treadmill desk so you’re able to walk and work at the same time.
4. Exercise for 10 minutes.
Some companies offer flexible work hours, and if you’re one of their lucky employees, use that extra time to exercise before, during, or after work. Physical activity can relieve stress by giving you a mental break, and as a consequence, you’ll feel happier and healthier. If you don’t have time for a class or a multi-mile run, a quick 10 minutes of movement can make a big impact—even if it’s jogging in place, some jumping jacks, or a few simple yoga poses.
5. Take the stairs instead of the lift.
It is really hard to say “no” to taking the lift, but there’s no easier way to get cardio in during your work week than by taking a few flights of stairs. As you can probably guess, opting for the stairs is good for your body: it increases your heart rate, improves your energy, and can increase the function of your immune system. Before you know it, you’ll be running up five flights and beating the lift to the top.
6. Sit on an exercise ball.
If, for whatever reason, you’re required to sit at your desk all day, switch out your chair for an exercise ball. Sitting in a chair requires no muscle activity (which does more harm than good), but using an exercise ball forces you to sit up straight, strengthen your core and tone your muscles. While it’s not recommended you sit on the ball all day, when inflated properly, it offers many more benefits than a regular old chair.
7. Offer to walk company pets in a pet-friendly office.
Working in a pet-friendly office has its perks, like boosting creativity, reducing stress levels and improving employees overall health. Company pets also force employees to take much-needed breaks. So, whether it’s your dog or a co-worker’s, taking a furry friend out every few hours gives you a valid excuse to get out of the office and move.
8. Switch up your commute.
If you can’t pull yourself away from your desk during the day, consider changing up your commute. Depending on how far you live from the office, biking or running to work can be great alternatives—and as a result, you won’t feel guilty for sitting at your desk all day. (But please be sure to move every few hours). If biking or running isn’t an option, try getting off the train a stop early, walking in lieu of the bus or simply parking farther away from the entrance. Every step counts, so switch things up!