When it comes to spending 8 hours a day at our desks, there’s a reason health experts are using alarming language like “sitting is the new smoking” — to grab our attention, and encourage us to make some healthy changes to what has become a sedentary lifestyle.
Not only do we need to move our bodies to prevent obesity, back pain, Type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers, being active is also good for giving your brain and your mood a boost.
“Physical activity enhances neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) in regions of the brain associated with critical thinking.”
The good news is, more and more employers are listening. Things like standing desks, yoga breaks and walking meetings aren’t just cool perks —they’re good for your health!
7 ways to help improve your well-being at work
1. Create an ergonomic workstation. Okay, okay. Not all employers can afford to get their staff standing desks, but you should be able to request the more affordable gear, like an ergonomic mouse, keyboard or wrist rest. While there’s no guarantee your boss will agree to cover the costs, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. If you do end up having to invest in these items yourself, it’s well worth it. Go without your daily Starbucks run for a month, and you should be covered.
“Standing delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain through improved blood flow.” (Source: JustStand.org)
2. Take frequent breaks. Unfortunately, we aren’t suggesting that you run out to your favorite coffee shop every hour. But simple things like getting up to walk to the washroom, heading into the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea, or walking over to speak with a colleague are easy ways to take a break from sitting. (And your boss won’t bat an eye!) Speaking of eyes, don’t forget to look away from your screen every 20 minutes to focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Sound odd? It’s called the 20-20-20 rule, and it’s what optometrists recommend, to avoid eye strain if you work at a computer all day.
3. Schedule walking meetings. This is something you may need to speak to your manager about to ensure they’re on board, but once they understand how fresh air and movement will benefit your brain (and more!), they really shouldn’t have an issue with your request.
“71% of employees reported feeling more focused after reducing sitting time by 1 hour.”
4. Take the stairs. This advice isn’t new, but we wanted to throw it in here in case you were finding it challenging to consistently incorporate movement into your day. If you avoid the elevator in the morning, for your coffee break (or two!), during lunch, and at the end of the day, that’s a grand total of 8 times that you’ve used the stairs, giving your body a much-needed break from sitting too long at your desk.
5. Spend 15-30 minutes of your lunch break walking. Assuming you have an hour for lunch, we suggest devoting 30 minutes to your meal, and the remainder to getting a walk in. Not only is it a good way to get moving, it can aid with digestion, and help clear your head, making you more focused and productive during the second part of the day.
“Studies show movement is linked to improved concentration and greater productivity.” (Source: JustStand.org)
6. Sit right! Sitting too long may be the enemy, but there are still ways to do it right. First of all, watch your posture for a healthy spine, and to prevent back and neck pain. If you notice yourself slouching, correct your positioning —and continue to do so until it comes naturally. Make sure your chair is the right height for your desk, and that your arms are at a 90-degree angle when typing. You may even want to consider getting a footrest for better support.
7. Stretch, stretch, then stretch some more. If sitting is the enemy, stretching is our friend. In order to minimize muscle tightness, strain or pain, and to avoid musculoskeletal disorders, it’s important to include stretches in your daily routine. Stretching helps keep muscles healthy and pain-free by improving flexibility and range of motion. The best part? You don’t even have to leave your desk. You can do stretches for shoulders, arms, upper body, and legs from the comfort of your office chair. (Or, if you’re feeling really brave, here are a few that actually require getting up.)
“10 minutes of movement is all it takes to increase mental focus.”
Ready to make healthy changes at work? Break, move, stretch, repeat. You’ve got this!