Our lifestyles today, modern conveniences, and the growth of the service industry has given rise to a more sedentary population worldwide. On average, office workers sit for approximately 10 hours a day, with the majority of these hours punched out at work (washingtonpost.com). Researchers have long raised the alarm on the health risks of sitting at a desk all day. Many of these health risks develop over a long period and can significantly reduce the person's quality of life. It is best to find ways to minimize the effects of prolonged sitting and interrupt unhealthy work practices that can lead to irreversible injuries in the future.
What Are the Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Hours of Sitting at a Desk?
To understand how to counteract sitting all day, it is best to identify the health problems associated with staying on your chair for a long time.
1. Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) and Physical Strain
Many office jobs require office workers to sit at a desk for prolonged periods on the computer, clearing paperwork, answering and making phone calls, writing, and completing projects. Some of the harmful effects of sitting all day are physical strain and RSI or overuse injuries. Sitting for long periods of time without rest and recovery puts a strain on muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints, resulting in overuse injuries. Symptoms include sore limbs, muscles, and tendons and eye redness, and dryness.
2. Weight Gain
The harmful effects of sitting at a desk extend to your body’s metabolism. A highly inactive lifestyle causes a person to expend less energy than a person with a more active lifestyle. This results in a burning of fewer calories. In the long term, a reduction in calories burning can promote an unhealthy weight gain that can lead to becoming overweight and, in severe instances, obesity.
3. Depression and Anxiety
The stress of having to confine your body in one position with the added pressure of meeting work targets and deadlines can affect office workers’ mental health. Loneliness and a decline in social skills affect psychological well-being increasing the risk of developing depression and anxiety.
How Do You Reduce the Health Risks of Sitting at a Desk for a Long Time?
Sitting for prolonged periods without rest and recovery puts a strain on the body and can lead to some chronic conditions. There are several ways you can break this repetitive and harmful cycle of continued sitting. Here are some ways you reduce the harmful effects of sitting all day.
Sit in a Natural and Comfortable Posture
RSI and other health conditions in the workplace can result from an incorrect posture that puts a strain on different areas of the body. If your job requires you to sit at a desk for long hours, you need to find a more natural sitting position that is comfortable and tailored to your particular height.
Some tips for sitting at a desk all day that promote good posture include placing both your feet flat on the floor, aligning your body so that your pelvis is positioned under you so that your spine sits correctly. You also need to lean back a little, which allows your shoulders to relax. A more natural position helps reduce unnecessary physical strain on your body.
Select a Good Office Chair
Many office workers spend the more significant portion of their day seated at work, with studies showing that office workers spend 67% to 72% of their work hours seated (Clemes et al.). Unlike any other chair, your office chair is one you spend many of your productive hours on. The best office chair is one that provides proper lumbar support, i.e., support for your lower back. Choosing the right office chair can go a long way in mitigating some of the health risks of sitting at a desk all day. A well designed ergonomic chair with adjustable lumbar support is the right choice for supporting your back's naturally curved shape. An adjustable option can also be tweaked to suit your unique build and height.
The neck is another part of the body that can experience physical strain if unsupported during extended hours of sitting while at working. Some office chairs do not even allow a good resting position for your neck while sitting back and taking a break. Investing in an ergonomic chair with neck support earlier on can alleviate the harmful effects of sitting at a desk before you begin developing neck strain symptoms.
Stretch and Exercise
Numerous professions require a lot of desk time, be it tech, banking, marketing, or online freelancing. Being inactive can increase the risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, muscle strain, depression, and high blood pressure. It can be challenging to find ways on how to counteract sitting all day. One way to stay healthy and fit is to do quick and simple stretches and exercises intermittently at work. There is no need for special equipment. Fitting in short bouts of exercise while sitting or standing can increase blood circulation and relieve pressure from overworked areas of your body.
If you are already experiencing some of the harmful effects of sitting all day, like back pain, you can consult a qualified health professional such as a physical therapist. They can recommend exercises that you can do at home and work to alleviate back pain. You can also opt for an office chair specially designed for people suffering from back pain. You can choose the best ergonomic chair for back pain from a trusted outlet.
Move Around and Change Positions
Changing your position while working can offer relief to areas of the body that experience the greatest strain when you are sitting. The potential health risks of sitting at a desk all day can be reduced by limiting the length of time you spend seated before changing position or moving around. You can incorporate a sitting and standing work routine alongside good office desk ergonomics that include your posture chair, flat feet on the ground, correct positioning of the screen for your eyes and neck, and keyboard and mouse placement.
You can adjust your work regime to include healthier work practices and incorporate ergonomically designed desk furniture at your workstation. These interventions not only reduce the health risks of sitting at a desk all day but significantly improve your work performance.
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