How to Stay Healthy When You Have a Desk Job

staying healthy when you have a desk job
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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how to keep being healthy when you have a desk job
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.
healthy when you have a desk job
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.
being healthy when you have a desk job
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!
how to stay healthy when you have a desk job

55 Comments

  1. May 22, 2018 / 2:54 am

    Great post! I need to take more breaks from my desk at work

    MonikaMakingMoves.com

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:26 pm

      Thanks so much, Monika. Can be so hard to remember to get up once in awhile. Especially if you get lost in work.

  2. May 22, 2018 / 3:08 am

    Great tips. I also have a desk job and due to the workload, I sometimes fail to hydrate myself. Got UTI because of that. Now I always make it a point to grab a glass of water (walking to the water dispenser is a sort-of exercise as well since it’s some meters away from my desk) so the condition won’t recur.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:26 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      Yikes, that’s rough! UTIs are not fun. I have a water bottle that beeps at me to sip. It’s super annoying, but it gets the job done!

  3. May 22, 2018 / 3:12 am

    Thank you for your practical advice, I totally agree that breaks and conductive to our work, wellbeing (fewer to no medical bills in the long run – yay!) and not a waste of time (how many of us scroll facebook, grab a fifth coffee during work time anyway?). After reading this post, I hopped outside and did star jumps and other cardio, but that was partly because it’s cold here at the desk.
    How come you only leave your lunch in the car in winter? Is the car too hot to carry food in the summer?
    Cheers!
    sunsurfandcoconut.blogspot.com

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:28 pm

      Thanks for reading, Viviane!

      Office temps definitely get me sometimes. At my old office I used to run my hands under warm water just to beat the chill, but my current office is much better.

      Yeah, my car is too hot to leave it in there during the summer. I’m also less likely to go for a walk during the winter so I make sure I have to get up once in awhile.

  4. May 22, 2018 / 3:18 am

    Thanks for this advice! We all have time for breaks if we scroll facebook or abuse the coffee machine anyway, and if there’s so much chronic stress, pain and illness in the first world that’s a wake up call to act now!
    After reading this I rushed outside and did star jumps and cardio (and I despise high intensity exercise) but that was more because I was cold at my desk.
    How come you only leave your lunch in the car in the winter? Is that so the food can stay cold, when in the warmer months, it would go bad?
    Much love!
    sunsurfandcoconut.blogspot.com

  5. May 22, 2018 / 5:32 am

    Yup that dreaded desk job. I’m really bad when it comes to that. I get so caught up in what I’m doing that when I finally decide to take a break my legs hardly want to move and I swear my laptop butt has increased by at least another 2 inches. I have to try and remember some of your tips Jen

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:29 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      I hope the tips help! I’ve found that setting an alarm for myself to take a break can work wonders during busy days. When I start getting stressed and anxious it’s really easy to forgo getting my booty out of the chair even though I know it’s for the best.

  6. May 22, 2018 / 6:54 am

    I truly don’t think that human beings are meant to sit still like lifeless beings for hours on end! I love sitting on a stability ball because it’s great for sneaking in some stretches plus adds a bit of fun to the day!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 27, 2018 / 5:19 pm

      They definitely aren’t, but sadly those jobs are what needs to be filled right now. I try to stand while on conference calls too. It feels a bit silly at first, but no one ever notices.

  7. May 22, 2018 / 10:57 am

    I love this post and I totally agree with you! I feel the same way! I am always stuck sitting and it takes a toll on me. I try to do yoga 3x a week to stretch my body and relax.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 27, 2018 / 5:18 pm

      Hi Ariel,

      Yoga is a great way to counteract the strain it takes on your body to sit all day!

  8. May 22, 2018 / 11:00 am

    These are all excellent suggestions! Statistics show that people who begin desk jobs typically will gain weight and their overall cardiovascular health will lessen. It’s so important to get up and moving when possible. Also, using a standing desk or sitting on a ball can have a tremendous positive impact. I also like to park far from the building so I have to walk and also use the stairs instead of elevators when possible.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 27, 2018 / 5:18 pm

      Haha, glad I’m not the only one who parks far away!

  9. May 22, 2018 / 5:20 pm

    I love these tips and it’s just s great reminder to take care of yourself.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:29 pm

      Thanks so much! I hope they help you!

  10. May 22, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    This post is one for the masses! Sedentary occupations are plentiful and many of us are guilty of taking actions that do not serve or healthiest need. By far the biggest thing to stay healthy in any sedentary occupation aside from eating well is to get up and move about. Thank you for these great points I will surely take them into practice 👍🏼

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:30 pm

      Thanks so much, Evelyn. I hope they help you out. I really felt the difference in my body when I started working again and sitting all day. Now I make sure to do at least 10 minutes of stretches every night to relieve some of the hip/lower back tightness. A desk job is harder than most people think.

  11. May 23, 2018 / 4:02 am

    Great tips! I have a desk job and wanted to get more toned and fit again, so for a month I would do arm circles and squats every time I used the restroom.. the results amazed me! Small changes really do have a huge impact:)

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:31 pm

      Hi Bre,

      We are birds of a feather. I do the squats every time I go to the bathroom just to get my heart rate up and get some building moving around my body. It’s hilarious when people walk in though, lmao!

  12. May 23, 2018 / 4:57 am

    I work (and blog) from home, so I try to get up & walk around throughout the day (it also helps give my eyes a break from looking at the screen). I saw a chiropractor for the first time a few weeks ago & I’ve been implementing some of the exercises they taught me. I really need to work on my posture. I’ll try to sit up straight, but it won’t be long before I realize I’m back to sitting how I normally do.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:33 pm

      I feel your pain. I think everyone has a cue that works well for their body to remind them to commit to a good posture. Mine is definitely keeping my feet flat on the ground. I tend to put one leg under me or work cross-legged in my chair which makes me lean super far forward. When I make sure my feet are flat on the floor it makes me pay attention to how I’m positioned.

  13. May 23, 2018 / 5:59 am

    i have a big belly and i believe that my desk job has something to do with it. im so soaked with my job errands that sometimes i forgot stretching and taking break. this will definitely every desk job worker to have some flexibility.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:34 pm

      Hi Cat,

      Yeah, desk jobs can be really rough on the metabolism. The beauty is that small changes can have a great impact so even taking a 20-minute walk during the day or replacing soda with water can be helpful. You got this!

  14. Elizabeth O
    May 23, 2018 / 10:57 am

    This is a really great informative article. You provided some awesome tips on keeping healthy when you have a job that requires sitting down most of the day. Great job.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:35 pm

      Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I’m glad you liked it.

  15. May 23, 2018 / 12:03 pm

    These are all great tips! I know my sister suffers this issue with her job and since loosing her dog she find she gets little to know exercise. She’s doing your walkking break tip and also has stopped working through lunch already but I will send her your blog post! 🙂

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:35 pm

      Yes, dogs can definitely be a great instigator for exercise. I hope she finds it handy!

  16. May 23, 2018 / 3:16 pm

    These tips are great! my activities are also sedentary!
    my only salvation is not owning a car. I work from home and I don’t drive, so I make several breaks during the day that include walking or riding a bike (take children to school, go pick them for lunch, buy groceries, take children back to school in the afternoon, go pick them back home and take them to sport or other activities, go pick them again, lol I walk around 15’000 steps only with my chores, without counting sport, which I only do three times per week 🙁

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:36 pm

      You’re doing great with your steps! Being that active during the day does wonders for your metabolism not to mention your general feeling of wellbeing! I wish I lived close enough to my job to walk or bike there!

  17. May 23, 2018 / 6:30 pm

    Frequent breaks and moving over lunch has been essential for me! Before I started doing that I was so stiff.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:37 pm

      Hi Sheila,

      The stiffness creeps up on you fast! I didn’t even realize it for awhile since I’d become so used to it.

  18. Minakshi Bajpai
    May 23, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    This is a really great informative article. You provided some awesome tips on keeping healthy when you have a job that requires sitting down most of the day.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Minakshi! I hope they’re helpful!

  19. May 24, 2018 / 5:39 am

    I am really finding that sitting whole day at my desk and working from home make it quite worse. Even though I go out to pick and drop kids , playground and other activities but needs to be more active.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      Working from home can definitely be a double-edged sword. You don’t have to spend time commuting to work and you can usually take breaks when you need to, but it’s rough being that close to the fridge all the time.

  20. May 25, 2018 / 3:51 pm

    So many great tips! I’m a law secretary so I most def needed these. Thanks!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      Hi Chelsea,

      Woof, I bet that can get stressful! I hope these help you out.

  21. May 25, 2018 / 4:11 pm

    for a screen addict like me your tips are precious!!! I am unable to take a break… my eyes need a screen to look at! true addiction … I force myself to cut off during 1 hour per day to follow my body challenge. but your tips are fab!!! I ‘ll try to follow them to improve my working habits!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:39 pm

      I’m so glad you liked them!

  22. May 25, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    All day, every day! These are great tips. It’s so important to get up and move around, clear my head, sit correctly, and stretch. What’s the saying? “He/she who sits most dies first?”

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:39 pm

      Haha, I love that saying!

  23. May 25, 2018 / 8:25 pm

    Oh this is so true! I try to eat healthy for my weight and skin and I’ll definitely take notes for these when i get my next desk job which i hope is soon!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 26, 2018 / 5:40 pm

      Elyssa,

      That’s a great way of looking at food. Fingers crossed for you getting the job you want!

  24. May 27, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    Great post! Love my Fitbit as well! It’s been years since I had a desk job, but it was truly my unhealthiest point in live! Would’ve loved some of these tips then!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 30, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      Hi Megan,

      Yeah, it used to be a struggle, but now it’s almost like a little game figuring out ways to sneak in some fitness time or be healthier in the office 🙂

  25. May 27, 2018 / 10:09 pm

    This is super helpful. I Dont have a desk job but i am a content creator who works from home and i must confess i literally sit all day. I need to pit some of these tips into practice because like you rightly said, no amount of money can buy good health.

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 30, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      Hi Christiana,

      Thanks so much for reading. Yeah, even when I’m blogging I make myself go for a walk or something. Plus, getting away from the screen actually helps me be more productive.

  26. May 27, 2018 / 11:26 pm

    Great post! I ALWAYS take the stairs at work, but I’m super guilty of working through lunch and not getting many steps in each day! Need to do better!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 30, 2018 / 11:22 pm

      Hi Mag,

      I know, it’s terrible! I only work during lunch now if I’m going to have to stay later than half an hour to keep up on work.

  27. May 30, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    This was such an inspiring and helpful post from a #bossbabe

    I’ll definitaley try to implement all of your tips especially ones with meditation and taking breaks to walk!

    • awaitressnomore
      Author
      May 30, 2018 / 11:24 pm

      Hi Ana,

      Thanks so much for reading. I hope it helps!

  28. August 6, 2018 / 2:18 pm

    This is so true! We sit down way too much and it puts our health at risk. Personally, I have been focusing on improving my posture for a while now, and it has made me aware of how crucial good sitting good posture.

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