*Please note that I am not a medical professional so take this advice at your own risk. This is really just a bunch of stuff I’ve taken on board over the years and have found very helpful to my own personal development and there’s no reason why it won’t be of help to you.
I’ve sat in offices for most of my working life which is around twenty years give or take. Some of those offices have been pretty grim places, draining the life force from your very soul while you spend your whole day processing words and crunching numbers waiting for the clock to strike five. On the other hand, I’ve worked in some great offices that offered excellent facilities and bright, open workspaces that you don’t mind spending day after day occupying. But no matter what kind of office you happen to spend your days in one thing’s for sure, you’re going to be spending most of that time sitting behind a desk.
The human body isn’t really designed for this kind of work, it’s a machine built for survival in the most inhospitable environments on earth. It’s a hunting tool, a gathering tool and building tool. We sit to rest but I’d wager that after a day of sitting at your desk you feel anything but rested. You might feel lethargic, maybe have a bit of a headache and just be looking forward to getting home and having a good.. erm.. sit down. If any of that sounds familiar then keep on reading for I have a few pointers that just might help improve that situation.
I consider myself to be a relatively healthy person. I watch what I eat (most days), I exercise (most days) and I get my full eight hours sleep (most nights) and I think the reason I’m like that is because of the job I do. I’m very aware of not being all that active during the day so I compensate with a healthy, active lifestyle outside of the office. Even then, spending that time in the office being inactive is less than ideal so here are a few things that can help keep you feeling fresh, alert and healthy during your stationary stint.
Get up / get down
Just because your work is desk-bound it doesn’t mean you have to be. Rather than just getting up every couple of hours to use the facilities, or make a cup of tea/coffee, make the effort to raise from your seat and walk about the office every 20 minutes or so. You don’t need to go far, just far enough to stretch your legs and get your hips moving and the blood flowing.
Sitting all day will compress the spine so why not take this one step further and every couple of hours find a wee secluded space (if you're easily embarrassed like me) and touch your toes. Bend at the hips, allow your knees to bend slightly, let your arms drop to the floor and just relax. You’ll feel your spine pop and crack as it decompresses and you’ll get a rush of blood to the head which is always fun. Maybe do this for 30 seconds to a minute every couple of hours if you can, it should help alleviate some of that annoying backache!
We all know how important maintaining a good posture is especially while sitting down for long periods. I know people who have slouched their whole lives and never had a single back issue - so this is different for everyone. I always try to keep on top of my posture because I’ve suffered pretty badly from back pain over the years.
Good posture isn’t just about forcing yourself to sit as upright as possible with your shoulders back, it’s about conditioning your body and training it to perform this task naturally. To maintain a good, natural posture you’ll need some core muscle so this might take a bit of exercise (Google ‘core exercises’ and you should get plenty of informative videos and guides on how to improve yours) and you’ll also need a tennis ball.
Yep, there’s a great hack for this. If you have an old tennis ball kicking about the house (if not, buy one), take it into the office with you tomorrow. When you sit down at your chair place that ball between your shoulder blades at the top of your back and allow it to rest on the back of the chair. Your task is to keep it there while sitting and working. If you start to slouch the ball will drop and you’ll know that you’ve started to lean forward - replace the ball and start again. You'll feel the ball there and at the back of your mind, you’ll be thinking about sitting up straight which in turn maintains your posture. As your body becomes used to this it becomes second nature and pretty soon you’ll be able to leave that ball on the court… ACE!
Get your eyes tested
If you’re leaving work day after day with tired eyes and aching temples it would be worth getting yourself to the opticians for a checkup. Before I started working in an office I had perfect vision, but now I require two different prescriptions, one for using a computer and the other for driving and watching the telly and I blame this entirely on computer monitors.
Over the years computer monitors have improved in quality but these screens remain labour intensive for the eyes and the constant strain of staring at them works the eye muscles in such a way that overtime they can become weak, worsening your vision. This really only gets worse with time (and age) so it’s worth addressing it now. Wearing glasses probably won’t prevent your eyesight from getting worse over the years, but the assistance of the lens on your eyes focusing should slow down the effects of consistent monitor use. It took about twelve years for me to get my second, stronger glasses which I expect to be using for some time to come.
Check-ups are usually free and high street opticians have some well-priced options out there so do yourself a favour and embrace your inner Buddy Holly.
The average human adult body is 60% water, which means it’s a pretty important substance. Do you drink enough of it? Do you drink any of it? Well, it’s the elixir of life and it’s readily available in all good taps and water fountains around the office and is essential for maintaining good health and wellbeing.
What does it do I hear you ask? Well, first and foremost it will quench the thirst that Cola, Coffee or Tea will not even touch. It will also aid digestion, help your body's cells to grow, flush bodily waste, lubricate your joints, help regulate body temperature and aid your brain in its daily activities to name but a few. So you need to be drinking it and lots of it and not just in the office either, you need to be consuming this stuff every single day! Buy one of those posh, insulated hot/cold drink bottle things and leave it on your desk ready to be filled up and consumed once an hour or so. Look, you don’t need me to tell you this, you know you should be doing it so get H2On it!
Eating is important, very important! Eating well is even more important. Three square meals a day has been the standard for… well since before I was born and there’s probably no reason to think that this concept should be any different in this modern age. Most folk will have breakfast before they go to work and dinner when they get home, so we’re talking lunch and snacks here.
When your job is not physically demanding there’s no reason for your lunch to be too carbohydrate heavy. It’s hard to burn calories when sat at a desk so there’s no reason to load up on carbs. High carb foods include white bread, pasta, potatoes and grains - so you may want to reduce your consumption of these while sitting at your desk. Maybe consider a salad with some cold meat or fish or a bit of sushi perhaps? Preparing these meals at home is always a good idea and hopefully, you have a fridge at work to keep it in. Give it a google and get some low-carb lunch ideas. Snack wise the odd biscuit won’t break the belt but you should be thinking in terms of fresh fruit, dried fruit & nuts and maybe a square or two of dark chocolate in order to settle that sweet tooth. Drinking water also helps curb the desire to over-snack.
Being full of heat producing computer boxes and insufficient air conditioning the office can be a hot and stuffy environment that quickly suffocates your energy and concentration levels. Whenever the opportunity presents itself take a step outside for a lung full of fresh air (and I don’t mean for a cigaret) and if you can, go for a walk. Lunch time is often the only opportunity you’ll get to do this, but with your salad cooling in the fridge, you should have plenty of time for five minutes of outside time. It’s said that a good breath of fresh air can re-energise the body, sharpen up your mind and give your immune system a boost. But even if it doesn't, it’s still nice to get out of the office and blow off the office dust.
So there you go, a few pointers on how to keep feeling fit, healthy and (hopefully) happy in the office. I’m sure you know most of this stuff already but it’s nice to just remind yourself to do it from time to time. Having recently moved to a new office with Gecko I’m feeling very lucky to have the brilliant facilities this new building has, but I know we’re not all as fortunate. So I hope that this article helps you do what you can in the space you have available to make your daily experience just that little bit more bearable. Thanks for reading.