While a desk job does have its benefits (e.g. shelter against weather, more interpersonal skills, maybe even more discipline, depending on the job), it also has disadvantages that can be damaging to both your mental and physical health. One of the most profound disadvantages is that desk jobs require you to sit for at least eight hours a day in front of a computer screen. A study by the American Heart Association says that some risks of sitting all day include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and premature death.
Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent these risks. The good news is that even if you've been working in an office for decades, it's not too late to help your future and regain control. Although my job isn't a typical desk job, if you travel often for business as I do, you too can benefit from these tips.
Here are a few ways you can counter the negative impact that sitting for a long period of time has on your body.
1. Get up and make moves.
I've always found moving around to be a peaceful, relaxing experience, hence, one of the reasons I love to travel. Besides helping you feel centered, moving around is also the best way to counter sitting all day. You can drastically lower your risk of heart disease by moving around for a few minutes every 45 to 60 minutes. Each time you get up and start moving around, you start engaging your joints and muscles again and your blood flow starts to increase.
One thing you can do, so you have a reason to move around more is to go visit a coworker to discuss the email they sent. Consider taking a longer route than usual to the restroom or taking a slow stroll to the break room.
If you can't walk around or like me, are often on a plane, consider standing up and stretching for a minute or two every hour. It may look silly, but it's worth it.
2. Pay attention to what you do outside of work.
Work isn't the only place that most people are sedentary. After you return home from a long day of work, the first thing most people do is relax on the couch. However, that isn't a valid reason why you should sit on the couch for hours at an end.
Even if you were to practice moving around more at work, you'll be defeating the purpose if you go home and revert to what's comfortable for you. The general rule is to sit less and move more.
It's easier to move around more at work when your office building is ten times the size of your house. But even if you can't take the long way to the bathroom, there are always small habit changes you can make that can decrease the amount of time you're sitting.
Get up and start walking during commercial breaks or remain standing while cooking dinner. Take some time to walk around after you eat a meal if you can.
Another small habit change you can make is to pick a parking space that'll require you to walk. I love finding parking spots that are close to the store's entrance but by choosing a spot that'll force you to walk, you spend less time sitting in your car, wishing for a spot to open and more time moving.
If you're at the airport and have time, walk around and avoid the moving walkways and shuttles if you can to keep you moving for a longer period of time. Once you get to your gate, try to remain standing for as long as possible.
Though you might not think it's important or that it'll make a difference, your goal is to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down in any way that you can.
3. Consider an adjustable height desk (not a standing desk).
When people find out that sitting all day isn't healthy, they immediately think that a standing desk is a solution. That's far from the truth. Besides being uncomfortable, standing all day isn't always ideal.
Instead of a sitting or standing desk, you need a hybrid adjustable height desk that allows you to sit or stand when you want. This means you can do both. The flexibility can help you ease into standing more often. I personally find myself to be more productive when I work standing. I take breaks every hour, on the hour when I'm home to help keep me moving.
The bottom line is that you need to do everything in your power to sit less. Even a few minutes every hour, or 30 minutes a day can positively benefit you and your future.