When working a predominantly sedentary job, whether in-office or from home, there are some potential health concerns to be aware of. Working a full-time desk job typically involves sitting down, chained to your desk, for the majority of the day. This can have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Luckily, though, many of us can’t simply quit our sedentary job and accept a more active one, there are a few ways you can take care of your body and diminish some of those negative effects that come with sedentary jobs.
The Benefits of Taking a Break
Many workers assume that working a lot of hours, often through lunch or other scheduled breaks, means that you’re a dedicated, hard-working, and loyal employee. However, there have been studies that show intense work schedules can affect not only our activity levels, but can lead to an increase of stress, disturb your sleep patterns, and even potentially lead to occupational injuries.
Furthermore, sitting for long periods of time can contribute to an increased risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
While it might seem hard to believe, plenty of people are not only hard-working and committed to their responsibilities but they also have a good work-life balance. Taking breaks and being more aware of your wellbeing is not only important to your health, but it can also make you a better worker.
For example, commercial truck drivers now have different hours of service to allow them more breaks for their safety and the safety of others around them. Furthermore, research shows that taking breaks can increase your productivity, give a boost in creativity, and allow more time for healthy habits.
Encourage yourself and your co-workers to step away from your desk more often. Start a walking group in Slack and take a few loops around your building throughout the day. Ask your company about dedicating a room for stretching, meditating, or even some yoga. Upgrade your desk to one that can be a standing or sitting desk with a click of a button.
And most importantly, go home on time as often as you can.
Change Up Your Commute
While the current COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we commute these days (if we leave our house at all) when life does manage to get back to normal-ish, it’ll be a good time to change up the usual commute routine.
Many of us sit in a car or on public transportation for the majority of our work commute. Then we enter the office and sit at our desk for 8 or more hours. Then we get back into our car and head back home, oftentimes in heavy traffic which means more time sitting in the car.
Even without having a commute, those who are remote workers, temporarily or not, still likely find themselves sitting in their chairs for hours and hours. Remote workers also don’t have those small physical activity opportunities such as walking with co-workers to grab some coffee or lunch.
This long-term sedentary behavior is harmful to our health, especially if in-between working and commuting, you aren’t regularly exercising. Finding opportunities to improve our commute is one option to try in order to off-set these negative health effects.
With such busy schedules, fitting in time to exercise simply might not be possible. However, it is worth considering changing up how you commute. Riding a bike or even a skateboard to work is not only beneficial to your health but is better for the environment.
You could also try walking to a bus stop further away from your home to get in some extra steps and spend less time sitting down. A when you do get on the bus or subway, choose to stand up rather than sitting down in a seat.
If completely switching up how you commute isn’t possible, then at least try incorporating more stress relieving and decompressing habits into your commute. Make your drive a tech-free zone a few times a week and practice meditating, reflecting on your day, or try being more mindful as you’re stuck in traffic.
While you might not be able to get more exercise during your commute, you can start other healthy habits that can at least help reduce stress.
Make Yourself a Priority
Beyond our physical health, excessive sedentary behavior has also been shown to negatively influence our mental health. Regular, long bouts of sitting can lead to anxiety, depression, and generally, lower levels of mental wellbeing. This can be even more compounded by the stress we get from working long hours, strapped to our desk.
Looking into the mental health services available to you can help provide some helpful solutions to make your days at work less harmful to both your mental and physical health. It’s also worth noting that medicare does cover mental healthcare, so there is little reason to ignore the issues negatively affecting your wellbeing.
Unfortunately, many of us simply can’t quit working because sitting too much puts us at risk. However, by utilizing health resources such as counseling we can start creating habits that will help off-set the negative effects.
At the end of the day, it’s important to be aware of the effects different kinds of sedentary jobs can have on us. You don’t have to sacrifice your body and mind to be a good employee, in fact, it’s just the opposite. When we take care of ourselves, we are much more capable of tackling the challenges thrown our way.