It’s the creakiness that you feel in your neck. Or the constant ache in your wrists. Or maybe you’re feeling a shooting pain down your spine that slowly moves its way to your leg.
As happy as you are that you’re killing it at the office (or finally getting to the bottom of your “bill pay” pile) you know that your body is paying the price for it. Sitting all day is actually worse for you than you might think.
New research has shown that sitting for long periods can wreak havoc on your body and health. People who sit for extended periods typically have increased blood pressure, higher blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, higher cholesterol levels, and higher incidence of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer than those who move around more.
This doesn’t even touch on the plethora of muscular and skeletal maladies that occur as a result of prolonged sitting, which include cervical and spinal disc problems, muscle pain and tightness, and neurological issues.
So what’s the solution? Basically, it’s to sit less and stand (and move) more often. In the case of the “workplace blues,” small changes can really add up to big and positive changes in your health. Try these tips that will keep you working smarter and healthier!
Pick a great chair.
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it, the number one thing to consider when making your workplace healthier is finding a proper chair along with a proper sitting position. You want to make that you’re at the right height when you’re sitting.
You should be able to sit tall with your shoulders relaxed and pulled back, your spine in alignment with your head and neck, and your forearms parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat with your knees at a right angle.
Be sure that your shoulders aren’t shrugging or slouching and your back isn’t rounding. A good chair will offer adjustable height settings, a cushioned seat, and a firm lower back support.
Set your monitor and keyboard up at the right height.
If you look around the office at your colleagues on their computers, you’ll notice that most of them are hunched over their monitors, which is causing their necks to strain and their backs to curve.
Proper monitor and keyboard height can make a huge difference in how your body feels at the end of a work day. Most people set their monitor heights too low and their keyboards too high. Your monitor should be at a height that you can look at it straight on (in a neutral position) without having to strain your neck to see it.
Keyboards should allow your shoulders to be in a relaxed position, and your forearms and wrists should be supported and parallel to the floor. If you use a laptop and often end up feeling like your body is twisted, a separate keyboard and mouse may help alleviate all of your aches and pains.
Take walking breaks.
For every hour that you work at your desk, stand up and take a lap around your office (or even just walk to the bathroom and back). This will loosen your muscles, boost your metabolism, and help you concentrate better when you return to your desk.
When you sit for a good part of the day, it’s important to take any opportunity to move more. Got a meeting? Suggest having it over a walk instead of coffee. Is it a beautiful day? Shorten your mealtime and take a lunchtime stroll instead.
Stand more often.
As much as tightness and stiffness, circulation can become a problem with excessive sitting as well. Take the opportunity to stand as often as possible. We find this hack works well: Whenever the phone rings, stand up and take all calls from that position.
If it’s possible, look into purchasing or renting a standing work station. They’re becoming hugely popular because they keep you healthier and feeling better.
Take stretch breaks.
The longer you sit, the tighter your muscles get. The tighter your muscles get, the more your body will ache.
You can combat achy, tight muscles by taking mini stretch breaks throughout the day. Here are the three best stretches you can easily do in the office.
Chest Doorway Stretch
Standing in a doorway, place your palms and elbows against the doorway frame. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and slightly lower than your shoulders.
Lean forward through the door, leading with your chest. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
Piriformis Stretch (Sciatica Stretch)
Sitting upright in your chair, bend your right knee and cross your leg so that your right ankle is resting on your left knee.
Grab the outside of your right knee with your right hand, and grasp your left ankle with your left hand. Gently hug your right knee into your chest while gently pushing the knee toward your left shoulder.
Seated Neck Stretch
Sitting up straight in your chair, grasp the bottom of the chair with your left hand.
Gently place your hand on the top to left part of your head and pull your head gently to the right, stretching out the left side of your neck and upper shoulder. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.