Today, many of us spend all day at a desk and computer — it’s a sign of the times. And with that often comes lower back pain, wrist pain and a tight neck. Not to mention weight gain, swollen feet and a sedentary lifestyle that could further wreak havoc on your health. If you’re a nine-to-five “desk jockey,” here’s how you can stay healthy without leaving your desk.
Build a perfect workspace
A good portion of your day is probably spent at work. And, if you have a desk job, that means a good portion of your life is spent sitting down. Sitting for long periods may not seem all that taxing on your body, but over time it can pose health risks you may never have anticipated.
A work chair that’s too high or too low or a computer screen set at the wrong angle can keep your neck bent forward and your back hunched for long periods, leaving you with continual neck and back pain. If this is how you feel most of the day, it may be time to fine-tune your work space.
- Choose a chair that supports your weight and spinal curves.
- Adjust armrests so your arms can gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed.
- Adjust your chair so that your knees are level with your hips. You may need to add an ergonomic footrest under your desk to raise your knees.
- Your seat height should accommodate straight wrists and hands at below elbow level.
- Make sure your monitor is no more than an arm’s length away.
- The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level.
- If you wear progressive glasses or bifocals, lower the monitor an additional one to two inches for more comfortable viewing, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
- Place your mouse within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard.
Meanwhile, keep your phone, stapler or anything else you use often close to your body to minimize reaching. If you frequently talk on the phone and type, place your phone on speaker or use a headset, instead of cradling the phone between your head and neck.
Opt for these healthy snacks
It might be the vending machine, cafeteria, well-stocked workplace kitchen or even your own refrigerator that calls you to silently graze on junk food all day. Instead, you need to keep a stash of healthy snacks ready to fight the urge.
Nuts are a nutritious, filling and boost brainpower
Research suggests that snacking on nuts has been associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, thanks to their healthy fatty acid profile. And, when it comes to brainpower, walnuts are your go-to nut.
According to BrainHQ, walnuts have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA has been shown to improve cognitive performance in adults, and prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Hardboiled egg is packed with protein
A hardboiled egg is only 70 calories but packed with six grams of protein. They’re also rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help support eye health, says Harvard Health. In addition, eggs provide choline, which is needed by nerves and the brain.
Apple slices with peanut butter have fiber, protein and fat
Apples are just plain good for your gut health. Moreover, a Japanese study found that apple polyphenols (compounds with antioxidant properties) normalize metabolism in healthy people with a high BMI (body mass index).
Meanwhile, according to research from Purdue University, peanut butter — in moderate amounts — is good for heart health. It has been shown to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Celery and hummus are great for heart health
Hummus made with tahini or sesame paste can lower your cholesterol and aid in weight management. Celery is more than just a crunchy snack. It can help reduce inflammation and help you stay calm. In addition, just four stalks a day can significantly lower your blood pressure.
Kale chips are loaded with fiber and antioxidants
Compounds like quercetin and kaempferol found in kale decrease blood pressure and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Plus, one cup of raw kale provides more than 100 percent of the RDI for vitamins A, C and K.
Take time to exercise (at your desk)
Sitting at your desk all day increases your risk for obesity, poor posture, back pain, sore muscles, leg cramps, edema and boredom. But sadly, nearly 50 percent of American adults don’t even get 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days per week, according to a survey by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. But there are exercises you can do right at your workstation to improve flexibility, get your body moving and heart pumping.
- Desk push-ups: Doing push-ups on your desk can do wonders for strengthening your arms. With both hands on your desk, walk your feet back to a 45-degree angle. Do 12 pushups. If you work at home, feel free to move into your kitchen and complete 12 counter push ups.
- Squeeze your shoulders together: Squeezing your shoulders can help improve a hunched posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 10 seconds.
- Tighten abs with a leg raise: While remaining seated, lift your right leg and hold for 10 seconds. Lower your leg and repeat with your left leg.
Can’t make a yoga class? No problem
Here are a few yoga poses you can do right at your desk:
- Inhale and lift your arms, then clasp your hands and invert your palms. Lean to your left and hold for five to eight breaths, then switch sides.
- Turn to your left and place your left hand on the back of the chair. Hold for five to eight breaths, then repeat on your right side.
- Bring your left arm up behind your back and right arm down behind your head. Clasp fingers together, if you can and hold for five to eight breaths. Then switch sides.
Take time for a little mindful meditation
It’s no secret mindful meditation can ease anxiety and mental stress. When your work day feels as if it’s spinning out of control — stop! But, finding time for a 30-minute mindful exercise can be difficult. So, does that mean you can’t be mindful at your desk? Of course not. Mindful exercises can be as long or as short as you want. Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses is a mindful exercise.
Take a one-minute break and practice mindful meditation to help quell distracting thoughts and refocus your purpose. According to Deepak Chopra, the best way to accomplish this is to close your eyes and begin counting your breath. Inhale — one. Exhale — two. Continue until you reach 15 inhalations and 15 exhalations. This will immediately bring you back to center.
Incorporating these exercises, movements and healthy snacks into your daily routine is an ideal way loosen up, lighten up, destress, refocus and become more productive.
— Katherine Marko