Wake up, get ready for work, sit at a desk for eight hours, go home, turn off for the day, then repeat. Again. And again. And again.
When you’re stuck at the office for a large majority of your week, it’s often difficult to be proactive about your health. Besides trying to cram gym sessions into hectic schedules and avoiding fast food lunches most days, it seems like there just isn’t much a working person can do to feel healthier while balancing a desk job.
In reality, there are tons of little things you can do on a daily (or hourly) basis to keep your body running well. Next time you’re feeling a little chained to your desk, consider taking up one of these healthy habits.
Take a Break from Your Screen Every 20 Minutes
Believe it or not, digital eye strain is real, and it’s no fun. Although staying glued to a computer screen for hours a day probably won’t permanently damage your vision, it can induce headaches and eye fatigue. Why? Well, the human eye typically blinks 15 times per minute…. Except for when we’re looking at a screen. For some reason, focusing on a screen (or even a piece of paper) for too long can reduce your blinking by quite a bit.
If you make an effort to sit at least an arm’s length away from the computer and dim your monitor’s display a little, your eyes won’t be quite as exhausted. Eye doctors also advise people to abide by the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for roughly 20 seconds. If you’re like me and won’t remember to do this in the midst of a busy day, there’s a handy-dandy chrome extension that will do it for you. Trust me, your over-worked eyes will thank you for it at the end of a long day.
Avoid Sitting for Long Stretches of Time
Many Americans sit for nine to ten hours each day. Some try to compensate for this inactivity with 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise, but experts say that even working out can’t counteract every negative effect. Many of your organs can suffer from sitting too long, including your heart and pancreas. Being too sedentary can also increase your risk of diabetes and colon, uterine, and lung cancer. Additionally, your brain receives less oxygen, and your posture can be seriously impeded. Doctors say that sitting at a desk all day, every day, can actually decrease the length of your life.
So, how can you prevent these terrible effects? A good place to start is with goal setting: aim to walk at least 7,000 steps a day. The more you move, the better. Do whatever you can to stay active. Walk to the bathroom on the other side of the office and refuse to take the elevator if you can help it. Make a conscious effort to walk to people’s offices instead of sending them a message over the computer. At a minimum, pay attention to your posture at your desk and take some time to stretch every now and then.
Get Out for Lunch
Even if you’re trying to save money by bringing a sack lunch, avoid eating at your desk or in the office at all if you can. It’s been proven time and time again that spending time outdoors results in lower stress levels and improves your health overall. Try to duck outside for just half an hour to absorb some sunshine and fresh air. Even taking a stroll around your office building can make the rest of the day a little more bearable. You’ll also check two other boxes: your eyes will get some rest, and you’ll have to get moving at least a little. It’s a win-win!
Refill Your Water Bottle Once Every Hour
I know I’ll sound like a broken record if I herald the benefits of drinking water like every other person does, but honestly, hydrating yourself at work is incredibly important. With deadlines and meetings preoccupying your thoughts most of the time, you probably don’t pay as much attention to your daily water intake as you should. The best way to remember is to buy a refillable water container and to make a point to refill it every hour or so. If you still have trouble making hydration a habit, consider downloading an app to remind you.
Do Your Best to Fight Germs
Just like schools, offices are a playground for all sorts of nasty illnesses. In order to stay safe from stomach bugs and the flu, you’re going to have to do more than just wash your hands every time you use the restroom. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk and make sure your hands are clean before touching your face or eating. You should also wipe down your keyboard, mouse, and desktop at least once a week. According to research, your desk may be home to 400 times more bacteria than the office toilet. Yikes.
Although none of these habits can replace real exercise or compensate for other unhealthy habits, they can make a noticeable difference in your daily life. Give a few of them a shot and see if your body feels even a little bit better.