Do you spend your whole work day sitting at a desk? You might be slowly damaging your health. Here are ways to stay healthy while sitting at your desk all day.
Do you spend your whole work day sitting at a desk?
If so, you might be slowly damaging your health in ways you aren’t aware of. Luckily, a few small changes can help you stay healthy at work.
How to set up a healthy desk space
The position of your computer, desk, and chair can have serious effects on your body. Looking at your computer at the wrong angle, typing in an awkward position, or sitting with poor posture can cause musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, strained ligaments, or lower back and neck injuries.
To protect your eyes and body, have your computer set up so that the top is level with your eyes. This prevents you from straining your neck to look up at your screen. Use an ergonomic keyboard or a padded wrist rest, and make sure your chair is a comfortable height and supports your back with your feet on the floor.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has other tips for setting up a workstation that protects your joints, spine, eyes, and neck.
Take breaks throughout the day
When you have a lot of work to do, you probably stay at your desk all day to get as much finished as possible. But research shows that taking breaks throughout the day will not only keep you healthier, it will actually make you a more efficient worker.
A study from the University of Illinois found that getting outside, even just for a few minutes a day, will boost your cognitive ability, reduce physical and mental fatigue, and lower your stress levels. Since stress is directly linked to a variety of mental and physical health problems, lowering the stress you feel from work may be one of the best things you can do for your health.
If you can’t get outside, you should still get up and move. Too much sedentary time can lead to poor health, even if you get regular exercise outside of work hours. Breaking up your day with physical activity, such as short walks, stretches, or a small workout in your office, can minimize the negative effects of sitting too much and help keep your heart and metabolism healthy.
If you’re not sure what exercises you can do while at work, the National Institute on Aging has tips for how to incorporate more physical activity into your work day.
Stop eating at your desk
If you’re one of the 47 percent of workers who eat at their desks, you’re spending lunch surrounded by 400 times more bacteria than you’ll find on a public toilet seat.
The 2012 Tork Report, an online survey of more than 2,100 adults, found that 55 percent of women and 40 percent of men eat at their desk and expose themselves to these high levels of germs every day. Eating in front of your computer causes crumbs of food to become lodged in your keyboard and other desk supplies, where they grow warm and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Combined with the fact that the majority of workers never wipe down their desk and equipment, your work station could be brimming with sickness. Eating at your desk, according to a report in The New York Times, can also cause you to overeat while you are distracted by email or social media, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.
To keep yourself healthy, head to the breakroom or cafeteria for lunch, pay attention to your food as you eat it, and make sure to clean your desk at least once a week.
Wash your hands
Hand washing may be health basic, but you might be surprised how many people skip it.
According to the Tork Report, only one out of three people surveyed believed that hand washing was important. And while 68 percent of respondents say they always wash their hands before eating, 24 percent only occasionally do, 7 percent rarely do, and one percent admit to never washing their hands before meals at all.
Even worse, 33 percent of men reported that they never wash their hands after using the bathroom, meaning they carry millions of bacteria out of the bathroom and into their office spaces.
To keep yourself and your co-workers healthy, wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially before meals and after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing, or shaking hands. You’ll significantly reduce the amount of germs and bacteria you come into contact with throughout the day.
July 20, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN