It’s no secret that sedentary behavior isn’t good for your body. Many studies have linked extended periods of sitting with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and certain cancers. This is concerning for those of us who work long hours in front of a computer, especially during the COVID-19 crisis when digital work is a necessity.
So how do you take care of your body when you sit at a desk for eight, 10, or even 12 hours a day? Here are five tips you can use to keep yourself in good shape.
Keep water near you
Hydration is essential to your health. Water is what keeps your skin clear, your immune system running, organs functioning, and your heart beating. However, when you’re sitting at a computer all day, it can be all too easy to forget to take a water break.
After your first initial cup of coffee or tea in the morning, kick caffeine to the curb. Replace your beverage with water and keep it nearby throughout the workday. This way you can be sure you’re hydrating rather than mindlessly sipping at coffee hours on end.
Fix your posture
Approximately 50% of all working Americans experience back pain every year. But despite this statistic, chances are you’re slouching in your seat right now. Fix your posture. If it’s hard to sit straight in the chair you use for work, consider making the switch to different office furniture.
Poor posture doesn’t only cause back pain. It’s responsible for hip pain, too. When you sit for too long with poor posture, your hip flexors tighten. This makes it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, which causes hip and lower back pain.
To reduce lower back and hip pain, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers. The U.S. holds about 45% of the global pharmaceutical market, so you can usually find an anti-inflammatory that will help. Other methods to reduce back pain include heat and ice treatments, regular stretching, and maintaining good posture during physical activities (not just while sitting).
Stand up at least once an hour
It’s typically recommended to take a break from your desk at least once an hour. But if you can’t get these breaks in because you work a high-pace job, make sure to at least stand up once an hour instead. Standing up periodically helps to get your blood flowing and may reduce the effects of sitting on your body even a little bit.
Keep an eye on your body
Inflammation, poor blood circulation and hormonal imbalances can all be signs that your inactive lifestyle is taking a toll on your health. Make sure to keep an eye on your body and inform your doctor about any concerning changes. For instance, people with a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to experience swollen ankles or feet when they’re beginning to get active.
However, if you experience changes in skin color, temperature, or you have open sores that are slow to heal, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor. These could be signs of diabetic foot issues. If you have slow-healing sores, make sure to remove any old bandages and check for signs of infection every 24 hours.
Be more active around the house
You don’t need to plan out an entirely new fitness routine to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. It’s actually better to start small and to get active by doing more activities and physical work around the house.
Lift hand weights, do yoga stretches, or pedal on an exercise bike while you watch Netflix. Do some gardening around your yard while you’re social distancing. Stand up and walk around while you scroll through Twitter on your phone.
The goal is to get your body moving. Even stretching and moving in place is better for your health than sitting for long periods of time.