Slouching postures and inactivity can trigger ailments such as a stiff neck, blurry eyes and a throbbing headache, to name a few. And it’s prevalent in our ‘desk jockey’ working culture, with a study calling it a ‘pandemic’ of inactivity.
Even if you do enjoy your desk job, health warnings reveal spending 8 hours per day sitting at your computer screen can take its toll.
According to a 20-year study by Cambridge University, this ‘pandemic’ makes you about 60% more likely to die early, causing every year 90,000 deaths and costing the UK economy £1.7 billion. And here’s why:
1. You’re not moving around enough
Inactivity is the second biggest killer after smoking, causing 1 in 6 deaths from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancer, according to the Cambridge study.
Sitting for long periods can increase your risk of high cholesterol, rising blood pressure, poor leg circulation, bad digestion and sluggish concentration.
Alarming figures also suggest 37% of all UK adults spend less than 30 minutes of their day on their feet, so get out there!
Try walking across the office to stretch your legs, standing outside for fresh air, walking up and down flights of office stairs during regular breaks, or even grabbing a nearby coffee.
If you’re eager to get really active, try cycling to work every day or go to the gym for at least 30-45 minutes a few times per week.
2. Your diet is on the slide
Sitting affects your diet, which in turn affects your heart health. In a worst-case scenario, lack of energy from sitting for long periods means poor choices in nutrition. This means high sugar intake and fatty deposits can affect your heart and digestion.
Get lots of fruit and veg into your diet (think ‘eat the rainbow’), drink water, and avoid highly processed foods. Either bring them into work and free up some gym time, or get up at lunchtime to fetch them.
3. You’re straining your eyes
Today’s LED screens have been linked to macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
A study found that prolonged exposure to LED screens increased retina cell death by 23%. Gradual symptoms include blurred vision, burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, dryness and even sensitivity to light.
To avoid this, place the computer screen 20-26 inches away from your eyes and slightly below eye level. Take regular breaks and adopt the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, look away at a distance of 20 feet away from the screen.
LED screens stops us blinking because of its intense glare, so put a post-it note on your screen that says “blink” to avoid causing dry eyes. Using over the counter eye drops can relieve eyestrain, but make sure to get checked out regularly by an optometrist.
Remember to adjust the contrast of your screen to level the brightness with your surroundings, and clean up your LED monitor of any fingerprints or gunk that strains your vision.
As for desk lighting, ensure your table lamp is adequate in brightness to avoid eyestrain.
4. You’re not sitting properly
Sitting at a desk for hours each day can really affect your posture, causing shoulders to close off to the front of your body, causing the back to slouch.
This can result in breathing difficulties, because your lungs aren’t getting enough oxygen.
Lack of muscle use can cause injury as you lose core strength in your glutes and leg muscles. Breaking Muscle’s tips for reactivating your glutes means your butt won’t fall asleep after being sat on it all day.
5. You’re stressed out
Lack of physical exercise during the day means you’re building up the stress hormone cortisol, which releases into the body causing an array of problems including lower immune function, high cholesterol, rising blood pressure, increased weight gain, and poor concentration and memory to name but a few.
Too much cortisol during a busy day can even trigger signs of long term depression or mental illness, which in turn decreases life expectancy.
A workout (or good walk) could help to bring your stress hormone levels down, as your body releases endorphins to enhance mood and wellbeing. Doing after-hours yoga or meditation will also help relax your mind, and the breathing techniques you learn will keep those stress hormones at bay.