Standing up for your health
Is your desk job a health hazard? According to research, a sedentary lifestyle or long periods sitting over time can take a toll on your health.
Researchers have found that a sedentary life can be linked to health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death—even if you exercise regularly.
“Extended periods of sitting, typically at work, can affect every part of your being,” says Laura M. Rosch, DO, an osteopathic internal medicine physician from Winfield, Illinois. “When you sit for long stretches of time, your body stops working as effectively as it can. The more regular this routine, the higher the risk of developing health problems that are detrimental to your overall health.”
What are the Effects of a Sedentary Work Life?
- Mental: Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression, and disordered sleep.
- Eyes: Eye strain, temporary blurred vision, headaches, and migraines.
- Heart: High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, angina, and heart attack.
- Limb: Loss of muscle mass, loss of flexibility, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hand/wrist tendinitis.
- Posture: Loss of flexibility, rotator cuff disease, pulmonary disease, and chronic pain in the neck, shoulder, back or hand.
- Back: Thoracic outlet syndrome, ruptured disks, and pulled or strained muscles/ligaments.
- Gut: Weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and impaired libido.
Staying Fit During Your Workday
The average office worker is at a higher risk of early mortality due to prolonged periods of sitting at a desk. To reduce your risk factor for multiple health problems, Dr. Rosch encourages people to adopt healthier routines.
“It doesn’t take much to improve your health. Healthy eating and exercise are the best antidotes for a sedentary lifestyle,” explains Dr. Rosch.
She suggests taking the stairs between meetings, taking breaks to walk the stairs for five to 10 minutes or walking to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing.
Other healthy tips to implement at work include stretching at your desk every 30 minutes; biking or walking to work; exchanging unhealthy meals for healthier options; and, adding a minimum of 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise to your day, which is enough to get your heart pumping and burn calories.
Dr. Rosch also recommends checking to see if standing desks are an option at your workplace. Be sure, however, to alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day since standing too much can lead to lower back problems over time.