5 Habits to Avoid Sedentary Workplace Injuries

5 Habits to Avoid Sedentary Workplace Injuries

Lower Your Risk of Pain and Injury

Most people would not list working in a climate-controlled office all day as one of the most dangerous jobs. They would be wrong. Although full-time sedentary workers aren’t likely to suffer sudden and violent fatalities on the job, the damage to the body can be significant – and may contribute to an earlier death.

Our bodies are designed to move. A lot. They are not designed to sit. If your desk job requires you to sit anchored fast to a chair for many hours each day, you are at considerable risk of developing chronic pain and disease, debilitating injuries, and other serious conditions and illnesses such as obesity, bone and muscle wasting, diabetes, shoulder impingement, cancer, and heart disease. Read on to learn some healthy habits you can make part of your routine at work to help combat the dangers of working a sedentary job.

#1 Take a 30-Second Stretch Break Every 30 Minutes

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? You are probably already well aware of the possibility of developing neck, shoulder, back and leg pain if you neglect to get up, move, and stretch regularly at work, but do you actually make time to do this? Although you might think it is too difficult, impractical, or time consuming to take a stretch break, it’s extremely important that you do. It is not a luxury. Stretching is critical to help prevent the development of serious bone, joint, muscle, and tissue disorders. Set a low or visual alarm and pause whatever you’re doing (yes, you can finish typing your sentence). Do each of the following stretches 3 times.

  • Slowly reach your arms straight up and then down to your sides.
  • Stand up and bend forward at the waist and back up.
  • Place your hands on your desk and lift the right knee, then the left.
  • Stay in the same position and make a circle with your hips once in each direction.
  • Bend your elbows and turn to the left, then to the right, while opening and closing your hands into a fist.
  • Sit back down and roll your head round in a circle each way, right then left, to stretch your neck muscles.
  • Stand facing parallel to a wall. With your arm extended and palm open and facing up, reach out and place the pinky-side of the hand against the wall and gently lean forward to stretch the pectoralis muscle.
  • If any other areas feel especially tight or stiff, move them also.

Be aware that experts recommend 5 minutes of walking for every 30 minutes spent sitting.

#2 Practice Good Posture

Ensure your body is properly positioned:

  • Make sure your back is thoroughly supported, including your lower (lumbar) back region.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Be sure you are close enough to your keyboard so that your shoulders are able to be relaxed and pulled back in line with your torso.
  • Adjust your chair and desk as necessary to ensure your hands, forearms, femurs (long upper leg bones), feet, and hips are parallel to the floor. Use a footrest, seat cushion, and/or arm cushions as needed.
  • Your knees should be at the same height as your hips.
  • Keep your elbows bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Ensure your computer monitor is situated so that it allows you to view it at 15 to 20 degrees below eye level. Elevate it with books or risers, or adjust your seating, if needed.
  • Keep your head level and straight in line with your torso.

#3 Put Down That Coffee and Get On the Treadmill. Yes, We Said It.

Sure, coffee serves a purpose. That old mainstay of the office is there for good reason. Sitting through meeting after meeting and staring at computer screens for 8 or more hours a day can be downright draining. Yet, downing cup after cup of caffeinated beverages to stay awake and functional is not the solution – and it really doesn’t do much to combat fatigue unless consumed at levels that may pose a health risk. Instead of trying to get wired on the java, consider a sit/stand riser, stand-up desk, or treadmill desk. After a brief adjustment period, users of these devices have reported significant benefits including sustained improvements in energy levels and work performance, as well as weight loss and an improved sense of well-being. That sounds like it just might be worth the tradeoff to us.

If you decide to switch to a standing desk setup, regularly switch back to sitting, with frequent breaks. Standing and/or running for many hours every day come with their own set of health concerns.

#4 Take Calls and Meetings to the Streets

Being sentenced to sit in a chair for most waking hours can come with a hefty price: obesity. If you are overweight or obese, you’re not alone. Approximately 70% of the adult US population is battling the bulge – and losing. Unless you actually need to be at your desk and interacting with the computer, get away from it. Make an effort to accept your calls on a cellphone. In this way, you can make it a habit to grab the phone, a pad and pen, and go for a brief walk. Even short, regular jaunts of a minute or two can make a dramatic difference. If you will be meeting with colleagues, suggest walking. The increased blood flow may even stimulate you to come up with the next great innovation.

#5 Refocus Your Eyes (20-20-20)

Take care of your eyes and they’ll take care of you. Neglect them and they’ll guide you to a world of pain, discomfort, and blurry vision. Every 20 minutes, focus your eyes on something 20+ feet away for 20 seconds.

Also, keep your computer screen a distance of 20 to 28 inches from your eyes. Take steps to eliminate harsh lighting, glare, and blue light with your monitor’s screen color adjustment settings, or consider adding a tinted screen cover.

Make these habits a regular part of your routine and you may enjoy a more comfortable workspace while helping to protect your health and well-being. Your body and work performance will reward you for your effort.

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