How to Stay Healthy at Your Desk Job

obesity desk job

A desk job can cause serious health issues

In some professions, like teaching or nursing, you don’t have to worry too much about staying chained to a desk all day. Instead, your day likely consists of running back and forth between meetings and helping students and sick people.

If, however, you work in an office from 9-5 every day, chances are you sit at a desk for the majority of that 40-hour week.

While some may argue that sitting for 40 hours a week is easier than standing, emerging research suggests that sitting too much has ill effects on your health. Some common side effects include: weight gain, a drop in good cholesterol, and a risk of developing diabetes.

Short of quitting your job and devoting 20 hours a day to exercise, what can you do about all that sitting? We have a few suggestions:

1. Elevate Your Desk

What’s the most proactive step you can take to combat sitting at a desk all day? Don’t do it! Instead, consider using a standing desk. As the name suggests, a standing desk has raised surface meant for use in place of a traditional desk. In other words, you work while standing.

Think your employer won’t like the idea? Actually, more and more employers have warmed up to it, so go ahead and bring it up.

Working at a standing desk station has many obvious benefits. They enable you to move more freely, provides more energy and helps your posture, according to proponents of the trend.

If your employer vetoes the idea or a standing desk simply won’t work for you, don’t despair – you have other ways to combat the ill effects of sitting at a desk all day.

2. Take a Break

The most obvious way involves getting away from your desk – take short breaks as often as possible.

Get too caught up in your work and forget to get up unless you absolutely need to? Set an alarm. Use your laptop or cell phone and set an alarm to go off (quietly) every hour. Take a quick walk around the office when your alarm goes off and reap the health benefits, which include improved circulation, mental focus and less eyestrain.

If that doesn’t work or seems unproductive to you, try changing the way you work. Do you email your co-workers often? Have a face-to-face conversation – a tactic that could cut down on miscommunication and allow you to literally walk away from your desk.

obesity desk job

Don’t overdo it on the snacking

3. Keep Healthy Snacks Within Reach

You need to make every calorie count to counteract the health issues associated with a desk job. This doesn’t mean snacking on fruits and vegetables all day, although that would qualify as a healthy choice.

Think about what happens in your afternoon slump. If you don’t have a snack handy, what do you do? Check out the office vending machine and grab a candy bar or chips? Wrong move. You won’t feel as tempted by high calorie, high fat foods if you have other snacks available.

The bottom line: A desk job doesn’t mean you need to sit at a desk for 40 hours week. While a standing desk might represent the best overall option, you have other options for reducing the risk of health problems that can occur when working a desk job.

About the author: Elizabeth Ross works as an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing about a variety of topics and programs, ranging from a practical nursing degree to a health information technology degree. Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter or Google+.

Image credits: businessinsider [dot] com, womensday [dot] au

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  1. #1 by Bren on March 19, 2013 - 4:21 PM

    Great tips! I work a 40 hour a week desk job and found I MAKE myself take those breaks away from my desk and keep snacks in our kitchenette. I’m sure my employer won’t go for elevated desks so maybe if I run around the office a dozen times throughout the day, it will keep me trimmer :)

    • #2 by Samantha Gluck on March 19, 2013 - 4:25 PM

      I’m glad you actually do make yourself take those breaks and that you keep healthy snacks nearby. Check out some standing desks online and learn about them before you approach your boss about it if you decide to do so. I have one and it’s fabulous!

      • #3 by Bren on March 19, 2013 - 4:33 PM

        Thanks! I’m sure they’ll laugh at me. Times are tough and well, if I truly wanted it, I’d be better off buying it myself :)

        • #4 by Samantha Gluck on March 19, 2013 - 4:51 PM

          That’s true. You can always spring for one and ask your boss if you can use it at work “for health reasons”. ;-)

  2. #5 by Joy Healey on March 19, 2013 - 6:39 PM

    Great tips, thanks.

    May I also suggest using water as a drink instead of the traditional coffee, at least part of the time?


    • #6 by Elizabeth on March 19, 2013 - 6:51 PM

      That’s a great tip, Joy!

    • #7 by Samantha Gluck on March 19, 2013 - 7:05 PM

      Haha! I’m glad you qualified that to “at least part of the time”. I agree with Elizabeth that it’s a great tip. We could all use more water in our daily fluid intake.

      • #8 by Joy Healey on March 20, 2013 - 1:53 AM

        I like to be realistic :-) Joy