6 Practical Ways to Stay Healthy at WorkBy Andrew Handley on December 27, 2011
We live in a world where nearly 70% of Americans work with computers on a daily basis. For most people this isn’t just idle time in between the actual work, it is the actual work. Due to the nature of computer work, the body doesn’t have a need to move around as much, and as a result it’s difficult to stay healthy sometimes when you’re staring into a glowing monitor for 8 hours a day.
Prolonged computer usage has recently been linked to several different health concerns, including back pain, hypertension, weight gain, eyestrain, and even musculoskeletal issues, but the scariest part is that we haven’t even been using computers long enough to know what the long-term effects may be. Following the old adage that prevention is the best cure, here are 6 practical ways to stay healthy while you work those long hours.
#1 – Pay Attention To Your Posture
It’s been suggested that the main cause of back pain among computer workers is poor posture. When sitting in the same position for several hours, your body’s natural response is to “settle,” or slouch downwards so that it doesn’t have to work as hard. Your shoulders hunch forward, your spine curves into a “C,” and you sit in that position for hours on end. More than just being uncomfortable, this can pinch nerves in your spinal column and contribute to chronic back and neck pain, eyestrain, and arthritis.
The proper posture should keep your shoulders in a vertical line with your ears. The monitor should be at a height that allows you to look straight ahead, rather than down, and your chair should be at a height that keeps your thighs horizontal to the ground.
#2 – Drink Plenty of Water
When your attention is fixated on the computer for a while, it’s easy to forget about everything else, including drinking. Thirst is actually the first sign of dehydration, yet for some reason we tend to ignore those initial feelings when we’re caught up in something else. Tea, coffee, and sodas don’t do anything to help either, due to their diuretic action.
How much water do you need? According to this source, a 150 lb adult needs 65 ounces of water, which translates to about 2 liters. Keep a water bottle on your desk and just take a sip every 10 minutes. Eventually it will become a habit and you won’t even realize you’re doing it.
#3 – Motion, Motion, Motion!
We’ve already talked about how you don’t tend to move much when you’re doing computer work. It’s generally recommended that you find some way to move around every 20 minutes, whether it’s standing up quickly and stretching, walking around for a minute, or just changing your sitting position. It’s been shown that children who fidget weigh less because that constant motion is actually burning calories, even while sitting down!
One easy way to get that motion into your workday is to sit on a yoga ball instead of an office chair. I understand that depending on your line of work, this might not be feasible, but for those who work at home or have a relaxed work environment it’s a cheap and effective way to get your body moving.
#4 – Try Some Isometrics
Isometrics are simple exercises that you can do all day long without anybody noticing. An isometric contraction is one where the muscle contracts but the joint stays at the same angle. If you tighten your ab muscles right now and hold them, you’re doing isometrics. That’s all there is to it! Try it with your arms, your chest, or your legs to get a full body workout without even leaving your chair.
In addition to fending off weight gain and strengthening your muscles, isometrics increase circulation which helps you stay focused and more energetic.
#5 – Plan Your Meals
How many times have you found yourself standing in front of the vending machine trying to decide between two equally unhealthy options? Or how about ordering lunch from a take-out restaurant for the third day in a row? Experts recommend packing your own lunch, including snacks, for an easy way to stay healthy at work. A few little bags of trail mix can go a long way, and you can almost guarantee that anything you prepare at home will be healthier than the pre-packaged options available at your workplace.
#6 – Get a Breath of Fresh Air
Most office workers rarely go outside, but spending a few minutes breathing in some fresh air can be both healthful and relaxing. Stress more than anything contributes to poor health in the workplace, and the easiest way to fight it is to take small breaks for yourself throughout the day and try to just stop thinking for a short time. These “mini-vacations” have been shown to help office workers adjust to different levels of stress and ultimately make them more productive.
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