The sedentary life is a silent killer. We round up five clever tricks to help combat its negative health effects.
1. Swap your seat for a ball
Does the idea of standing on your feet all day at a desk sound like torture? Then there’s a middle ground.
A yoga or ‘Wellness’ ball, like the one pictured below, helps to improve your natural posture while also saving your feet from endless blisters.
And its benefits don’t stop there. By forcing your body to make small but continual readjustments to your seating position, the ball helps you to capitalise on your body’s natural propensity to slowly burn calories throughout the day (rather than in one intense burst in the gym after work).
“Any type of brief, yet frequent, muscular contraction throughout the day may be necessary to short-circuit unhealthy molecular signals causing metabolic diseases,” write the authors of one study on the matter.
We all know that we should be standing up and walking more – but short of buying a desk treadmill or going for career-harming three-hour strolls every lunchtime, hitting your recommended target of 10,000 steps a day is no walk in the park.
Step forward the horribly-named but honourably-intended ‘deskercise’. Simply referring to discreet exercises that can be done at your desk, deskercise helps you to stretch out and get the blood pumping while still sitting at your computer and answering emails.
Examples include sly leg raises under your desk, back strengthening exercises that use your arms for resistance, and bum clenches (not to be done on the morning after a visit to the curry house).
3. Look away from your screen
According to studies, 50-90pc of people who work at computers experience some form of eye strain. This can include symptoms such as twitching, red, and itchy eyes – with the potential result of a decrease in productivity and an rise in the amount of errors workers commit.
Which is the perfect excuse for looking off into the distance every now and then. In optology circles, there’s a protocol known as the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, you gaze at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
The protocol allows your eye’s muscle’s to relax, helping you to avoid the symptoms of fatigue – not to mention giving you a reason to forget about the work you’re doing, at least for a few glorious seconds.
While we’re on the subject of eyes, it’s important that office workers remember to blink.
That may sound obvious, but studies have shown that we blink roughly 70pc less when we use computer screens. Blinking is the body’s mechanism to keep the eye lubricated and healthy, which explains why so many office workers suffer from dry eyes.
Lubricating eye drops can also help.
5. Put the phone down
No, this is not an excuse to stop using the phone altogether. The problem is not the mode of communication per se, but the handset you use to connect you with someone on the other side of the world (or three desks away, because you’re too lazy to walk over and say hello).
Holding a phone to your ear or cradling one your shoulder is a cramped and unnatural position; do it too much and you risk misaligning your body’s natural posture.
Instead, try a speaker phone or headset. Both allow you to talk freely on the phone while also typing at a computer screen.