A lot of jobs these days are sedentary, mine included. Even my side job, blogging, is sitting down. I’m a super health-oriented person (duh), so when I started my new job after three months of short-term disability I wanted to come up with as many ideas as I could to figure out how to stay healthy when you have a desk job.
In the US we spend sooo much time sitting. We sit behind the wheel, at our jobs, at home. This has detrimental impacts on our health. I mean hello…obesity epidemic, a rise in autoimmune disorders and muscle imbalances. We also allow stress to creep into our lives until it becomes the status quo. This isn’t good for your body, mental health or your productivity.
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Move your tush. Once I got my Fitbit I quickly learned how steps add up over the day. A brisk 20-minute walk at lunch and another quick one on my break not only added to my end of day step count (take that bf), but it also got me moving during my workday. A quick walk stops me from grabbing that second cup of coffee and helps me digest my lunch. When I’m listening to a great book on Audible the time just flies by. Recommendation: Check out Hot Mess if you haven’t already. It’s based in Chicago and super fab.
Our bodies are not meant to stay stagnant all day. Going for a walk gets your bodies’ processes going and can also help combat work-related stress. I call that a win-win.
If there are stairs I’m going to take them. I purposely park farther away from entrances so that I have a longer walk. During the winter I put my lunch in my car so I’d have to go out and get it. If a coworker emails me a question I’ll get up and go answer them in person. It all seems like silly, little things but these silly, little things add up. I’ve even gotten in the habit of doing walking meetings if the group is smaller instead of going to a meeting room.
Having a desk job where you are seated most of the time can actually cause you to die sooner even if you exercise regularly. That’s nuts! For the longest time I thought it didn’t matter that I was seated most of the day because I worked out 6 days a week doing cardio and weight lifting, but after learning that I started to get my booty in gear.
If I could only suggest one thing for staying healthy when you have a desk job this would be it.
Get a standing desk. It may not seem like much, but the effort that it takes you to stand will burn more calories. It’s also thought that standing up can activate the break down of fats and sugars that doesn’t happen when you’re sitting. Standing desks are good because they always offer the ability to sit if need be too.
Take a break. The desk life is rough, yo. Sitting too long can lead too tight muscles, shortened tendons and a whole host of not so fun stuff. I try my best to take a break just to stand every half an hour to an hour. It’s cut down a lot on my lower back pain and my hips don’t feel quite so tight.
It’s not only a lack of movement you have to watch out for when trying to be healthy when you have a desk job. Lengthy emails or bitchy coworkers can pump up your stress so it’s good to make sure you’re taking mental health breaks as need be too. I usually have a couple quick meditations saved and ready to go for when I start to feel the anxiety clawing at my stomach.
I know, I know. You’re saying “who the hell has time for this many breaks? I’ve got deadlines, girl”. I totally feel you. I’m a project manager so I deal in deadlines and touchy clients all day long. I spent the first three years of my career allowing stress to pile on because I didn’t know there was any other way. I legit thought that I just had high-anxiety and that everyone else was handling their workloads just fine, but I had zero idea what was actually going on in their heads behind the calm exteriors they portrayed. You never know what’s going on in anyone else’s heads.
It was around the time my chronic pain started that I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore. It didn’t matter whether my anxiety was normal or abnormal. I was still experiencing it and it was wreaking havoc on the health of my body and mind. I couldn’t sleep at night because I’d be so anxious about the next workday, weekends ended too soon with me dreading returning to work by Sunday at noon, and I was turning into such a cranky person. Mind you, I’m not always sunshine and unicorns, but I’m generally not a bitchy person and my work life was turning me into someone I didn’t like.
I started meditating at my desk when an email would stress me out. I got up for quick walks when I couldn’t focus or was getting antsy and allowed myself to have a morning ritual once I got to work to start the day off on the right foot. No more rushing to send off emails as quickly as possible stress eating at work or stupid mistakes because I was trying to go too fast. I stopped looking at my work phone after 6 PM and I had way better sleep.
The funny thing? I not only was able to do the same workload, but I was actually doing more in less time because I was more productive. So before you tell yourself that you don’t have time for breaks remember this and just give it a try. You might be surprised.
And you know what? Even if I was less productive my sanity and health is worth way more than being able to handle a few extra things in my day.
Set your desk up correctly. Seeing my colleagues and my boyfriend sit at their desks has made me super aware of how much a bad desk setup can lead to poor posture. You spend around 8 hours a day sitting at work and that’s not including your commute and any sitting you do at home. Check out this infographic and put some time into making sure your desk and chair are set up correctly.
This was my number one priority after going to back to work post hip-surgery…besides being a badass project manager. Nothing puts a dent in my work day like creeping back pain or a neck that feels like it’s in a vice grip. Luckily, we have great chairs at work so I just adjusted it to my heart’s desire, but I did have to ask for a wrist rest and a better mouse. I don’t allow myself to slouch in my chair anymore no matter how much I want to and I make sure to bring my glasses to work so that I don’t need my computer monitors super close to my face. My body feels way better than it did at my previous job where I just sat cross-legged most of the time (yikes).
Being healthy when you have a desk job means making that desk work for you and not the other way around.
Sit on a ball. The extra stability it takes from your core to stay upright will help with balance and core strength. It also prevents you from slipping into poor posture easily. I mean it can definitely be done, but it’s almost impossible not to realize you’re slouching on a blow-up ball.
Stretch it out. Stretching is so important because when you’re sitting it’s really easy for your hip flexors to get shortened or your hips to lose flexibility. Stretching helps get oxygen flowing through your body and brain which will help make you more alert.
Take your lunch break. I’m a workaholic and would often work straight through lunch and just eat my food at my desk. Not only did I stress myself out by doing this and limit my productivity, but I lost out on much-needed bonding time with my coworkers. 99% of the time there’s nothing that can’t wait until after your lunch break. Not to mention you can’t be mindful of what you’re eating when you’re too busy putting pricing together while shoveling mouthfuls of yesterday’s leftovers into your mouth.
Pack your lunch. One of the best ways you can stay healthy at work is by packing your own food instead of going out to eat. That way you know exactly what’s in your food and you’re staying away from the added calories that most restaurants add. I go out to eat about once a week with my coworkers and bring my lunch the rest of the time. Tone It Up has some delicious lunch options or check out Pinterest. Skip the morning excuses as you’re running out the door by prepping food on Sundays or at least making your lunch the night before. Then you can just grab and go!
Stock up on healthy snacks. My workplace looooves to bring in food and it can be so tough to not be tempted by Jim’s birthday cake left in the break room from yesterday’s celebration, but it’s a lot easier when I have my desk drawer stocked up on yummy and healthy snacks. Try having some small bags of SkinnyPop, nuts, oatmeal packets and tuna packets squirreled away in your desk in case you need a snack. I also keep a ton of different teas at my desk because often you can mistake dehydration for hunger or I might just need something to sip on. I also keep a bit of dark chocolate in my desk because a couple squares will nip a sweet craving right away.
Staying healthy when you have a desk job isn’t difficult if you put in the time and effort. Take every opportunity you can to get your body moving and don’t forget that your mind needs attention just as much as your body does and get some meditation in! Stress is not a necessity in order to have a good career and no amount of money can buy you good health.
Thank you so much for reading. If you liked this one check out my self-care post here and another great one on journaling right here because Buddha Belly is all about fitness for the mind, body and soul. Please share with anyone you think might benefit!
Gotta go. I’ve been sitting for over an hour now and need to listen to my own advice on how to be healthy with a desk job!