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Office Work: How To Stay Fit and Painless with a Desk Job

Sitting Desk Pain

10 desk work hacks to keep you healthy

  1. Take the stairs, skip the elevator

An easy way to burn calories for free. Generally, you don’t save much time by taking the elevator – unless you work on the 22nd floor, of course. In your mind it might sound like horror to climb stairs instead of waiting comfortably, letting your mind drift while looking at the little screen showing the number of floors your passing. But getting your blood pumping and your body moving in the staircase will contribute to your focus later on: research shows that even short bouts of movement contribute to a better mood, less feelings of fatigue, and enhanced cognitive capacities. Stair walks don’t only make your legs stronger, and boost your cardiovascular health, research shows that exercise effects are far greater. Consider it a nice free gym for your body and your mind – powered by your employer.

Stairs Walk Healthy Office

  1. Add Moves to Your Commute 

Another free and low-effort way to get some exercise into your day: can you walk or cycle to your work? Great, there’s no better day than today to start doing it. However, if you need to take the public transport to get to your work, make sure there is some ‘walking time’ in your route. If there’s only a short distance from station to work, and from house to station, get off one or a few stops earlier, and enjoy your me-time. On the other hand, if you generally take your car: park the car on the far end of the parking lot. This will also give you those extra steps that your body and mind would love.

Walking Commute

  1. Change Your Posture Frequently 

OK, we understand that it might be a bit much to ask you to do squats while the coffee machine does its job. Although – why not? If no one is watching, your legs will be grateful. But if you’re not there yet: consider ways to keep moving while you are working. Change your posture frequently, fidget, change the position of your legs, your back, your arms. The more you move, the more your blood flow and muscles will be stimulated. Good for your muscles, but also a good way to combat tiredness: A wake body means a wake mind!

Bonus tip: If you are up for the next level though: consider adding ankle weights under your desk, and raise your legs once in a while. Who says low intensity workouts and work don’t go hand in hand?

Standing Work

  1. Don’t Rely On Your Ergonomic Chair

Every kind of movement contributes to a healthy body. Keeping the body still, on the other hand, makes your blood flow, and metabolism both slow down. Effect: stiff muscles, aches, and burning less calories throughout the day. What also contributes to what many experience as ‘pain’ after a day of working: when we’re so caught up by something mentally, we tend to freeze our body and its natural movements, which can result in (very) bad posture, all of the above, and consequently: pain. Aside from that, a comfy, ergonomic chair may sound like the best solution against pain from desk work, but physiotherapists nowadays agree that this comfort actually prevents you from moving. And moving is key to keep your body healthy and happy. While ergonomic chairs are built for good posture, and they can certainly support a healthy posture, make sure that you change positions frequently nevertheless, to keep your blood flowing, your muscles work, and your body strong and pain-free.

Posture Work Office

  1. Take Mini Breaks

A sedentary lifestyle is detrimental for your whole body. It’s related to many chronic diseases, and can contributes to premature death. And we don’t want that, do we. So let’s take mini breaks! Set a timer, every hour, every half hour, or maybe even every fifteen minutes, and stand up. Simply stand up. Maybe do the standing up, sitting down every fifteen minutes, and take a short walk (coffee, anyone?). Stretch your limbs, move your body, and relax your mind for a short while. Hint, this also means that you don’t take your phone to be on your phone during that little break. It’s a break for your whole body, remember? It doesn’t have to be long. A break of 2 minutes can already clear your mind, and it gives you loads of opportunity to stretch your back, your arms and your legs. Oh yeah, and to get that well-deserved cup of coffee.

Take Breaks Office

  1. Stretch Yourself!

Sitting shortens many muscles in our body; generally, mostly your hip flexors, but if you also work with bad posture, your chest muscles may be shortened as well, your back muscles lengthened, and it results in a vicious circle which might help you to get a hunchback appearance. And we don’t want that, don’t we? Solution: stretch! Stand against the wall and stretch your arms overhead, making yourself as tall as possible; make snow angel movements while doing so, and alternate these positions. Stand on your toes, and give your legs a bit of stretching while bending forward and down. Make sure here that you don’t lock your knees, and that it doesn’t hurt in your low back. Repeat these movements also a few times. Circle your shoulders; stretch your arms, and if you have time: add these Yoga Moves for a full release in your upper body.

Stretch Your Body

  1. Use Lunch Breaks Well

Lunch breaks, for many an invitation to leave the desk, walk across the room, and sit down next to your colleagues. Very comfy, very social, and some time for relaxation. However: it adds up to that sedentary day. Why not prepare your lunch in advance, get some fresh air, stretch your legs, and explore the area around. Like to work on your social relationships and catch up with colleagues? Invite them! You don’t only contribute to your own health, but also to theirs. They’ll be thankful in the future.

Walking Lunch Break

  1. Have Meetings Standing Or Walking

In the category ‘use your time well’: why don’t discuss important topics and brainstorm while standing or walking? If you have a one-on-one, these meetings generally can be done walking. A nice benefit is that it sometimes makes you think better too, as we walk, we relax, and sometimes that’s the moment that we get the best ideas. Who hasn’t experienced an epiphany while showering? Aside from that, team meetings can generally be held while standing. Try to fix your office standing up desks, or a high meeting table. It will contribute to the health of the organization and sometimes brings the best ideas to the table – literally.

Standing Meeting

  1. Seek Relaxation in Things YOU Do

We understand it: after a long workday, a massage is exactly what you need. Even though we encourage massages, and we think it’s a great way to relax, it’s not a long-term solution for stiffness and pains. The solution comes from externally, and the stiffness and pains will come back if you don’t change the cause. Move, exercise, walk, foam roll, meditate, do yoga: all great ways to work on your own physical and mental health. It makes you feel good while you are in control; you know exactly which body parts ‘like’ what you do, and which parts are sensitive, and they have many long-term effects on your mental state, any physical strains, and they even contribute to a leaner, stronger, and more flexible body. Now can a massage do that? I guess not.

Easy Relaxation

  1. Use Your Time Well Outside Work

8 days of work, maybe a bit more. But it still leaves quite a lot of time in your day, to use your time well. We get it: after a full day of working, it’s quite a challenge to make it to the gym. Not only are you tired, but you have a family to take care of, a social life to cultivate, a house that needs to be cleaned, and oh yeah: you also need to sleep enough. We understand it: it’s hard to squeeze in healthy habits aside from all the things you have to do. But start small: think of your week’s groceries and the meals that you would like to make, and prepare your list in the weekend in advance. Straight away, buy all groceries and you don’t have to think anymore about it. Then also think about moments where you can add exercise. Plan it in your agenda, and see it as ‘set meetings’ – dedicated to yourself. It’s easier to stick to a plan than to come up with a plan if you need it straight away. And aside from that: it’s way easier to skip it, simply because it wasn’t in your agenda. If you are short on time, consider shorter workouts, plan a HIT workout, do a Tabata class online, or climb the stairs of your apartment building until you’re out of breath. Being out of breath due to short bouts of exercise might not be the dream feeling you want in a busy week, but I kid you not: it does miracles for your heart and brain health in the long run.

Exercise with Family

Everyone has 24 hours in a day, we all have to find ways to use them well.

A last important thing: staying fit and healthy is not an all-or-nothing-case. If you can implement one of these hacks a day: great! If you can add two: even better. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t see ways to change all of your habits, and use all ten hacks right away every day. Long-term change comes slowly, and it starts with awareness. Remind yourself that you can have an impact on your day-to-day experience, on the prevention of pain, and the conservation of a fit body, even with a sedentary job. It’s a job; nothing more, nothing less. You can still have full control over your day; over your body, and your mind. 

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