If you spend many hours of the day sitting at a desk or working in front of a computer like we do, then you know how tough it can be on your back, your neck, and uh…even your waistline. But there are actually things — really easy things — that you can do to make your work day easier on your body and to help keep you healthier.
So we’re sharing 5 simple tips to help you stay healthy, energized, and maybe even more productive if you’re sitting at a desk as long as we are.
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1. Make sure your workspace isn’t making you sick
No, we’re not talking about your keyboard and mouse that you haven’t disinfected in a while. (Though hey, go do that now while you’re thinking about it!) We’re talking about the height of your desk, your chair, and the placement of your computer and keyboard. The ergonomics of your furniture and equipment can really increase the strain you’re putting on your shoulders, neck, back, and even your legs. Truly, your entire body is affected by how you’re sitting at your desk.
If you work at a computer, your eyes should be in line with the top of your screen or monitor, and your forearms 90 degrees from your body at your keyboard, parallel with your desk. For those of us who use laptops, consider a laptop stand to help raise your eye level therefore lifting your chin and neck. Above, the Griffin elevator laptop stand which is an early model but still gets high ratings. You can also look at the Roost laptop stand which gets high marks for its light weight, small footprint and portability.
Still unsure if you’re doing it right? Check this handy ergonomic interactive workspace planner at Ergotron, which can help you figure out the ideal way set up your workspace according to your own height and other factors.
2. Stretch, even if you think you look silly
Simple neck rolls and leg stretches under the desk are a great start, but there are far more effective exercises you can try.
We happen to like this collection of desk stretches created by Healthways’ Blue Zones Project. (Aren’t the names awesome?) Granted, they do involve you standing and doing some movements that might call attention to yourself. But hey, we think your health is more important than a couple of co-workers who might stop to watch at your “I’m Your Boogie Man” shoulder shrugs.
How often you do these desk stretches is up to you, but taking a few minutes a couple of times a day beyond your lunch break to get the blood flowing can make a huge difference in your circulation. You might also be surprised to see how much tension you stop start carrying in your neck, shoulders and back.
3. Get up and move. Your eyes, too.
Getting up and moving is such a simple, easy way to get the blood flowing through your body — and importantly, flowing up to your brain, which can actually make you more productive. So take advantage of every opportunity you have to get up and move more, whether it’s walking a bit farther down the hall to get a glass of water, offering to bring that extra chair from another office to the conference room, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
(Hitting the elevator button ten times to try and make it come faster doesn’t really count as “more movement.”)
If you’re like us and feel like you blink and three hours at your desk has passed, try an Apple Watch which pings you with reminders when you need to get up and move.
Or just program your phone or computer’s alarm function to nudge you with a gentle “stand” alert every hour or so.
As for your eyes, they need to move too! Experts recommend you use the 20-20-20 rule if you look at a screen all day long: Basically, you should be sure to look away from your screen at something 20 feet away, every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds. This not only gives your eyes a break, it can help decrease the chance of developing a headache if you’re prone to getting them.
4. Hydrate. And that doesn’t mean drink more coffee.
It’s really important to make sure you’re taking in a lot of water during the day, and this isn’t just a summer thing at all. Even mild dehydration can create all sorts of health issues, from headaches to dizziness to lack of focus. It can even make you more susceptible to the cold and flu virus. (Ugh!)
We find the best way to stay hydrated is to have water easily accessible, which means keeping a reusable water bottle on your desk and hopefully, a refill source close by.
If you’re a coffee drinker, consider doubling up on water — have a glass or two for every cup of java. Or think about switching to a non-caffeinated tea by the afternoon, even better if it’s tea with a sense of humor like this pot from favorite Etsy shop, Mugoos (no longer available sorry!).
As you well know, cutting back on caffeine can help with sleep later on too and that’s never a bad thing.
5. Eat healthy. That includes snacks.
Being prepared when it comes to food really helps you make healthier choices; and you already know that if you’ve ever gone grocery shopping without a list or when you’re hungry. (Hey, how did all these donuts get in my cart?) If you want to eat healthier at work, pack a lunch for yourself instead of buying something impulsively. If you do eat out, make sure your local take-out places or office cafeteria have options that include proteins and veggies, not just the fried stuff.
homemade trail mix recipe via with style and grace
This goes for snacks as well. We love keeping nuts, dried or fresh fruit, and other healthier choices within arm’s reach so that when we’ve got the munchies, the selection is limited to the good stuff. As in, not so many carbs, not so much sugar. Our post on healthy DIY travel snack recipes are all perfect for desk snacks too because they’re easy, portable, and not so messy.
And by the way, this goes for those of us who work at home too! If you’ve got almonds and dried apricots right next to your laptop at home, you’re less likely to sneak off to the kitchen to root through your pantry for a quick fix of toaster pastries. (Just us?)