Sitting at a desk seems safe enough, but typical office work can have a severe effect on the human body. Not only is sitting for several hours a day harmful—regardless of exercise level or caloric intake—but it can also lead to an increased risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and other health risks that range from bothersome to disabling.
Work is stressful enough for young and ambitious professionals and oftentimes, people don’t think twice about the harmful effects of working a sedentary job. Read on to learn more about the risks posed to office workers and how to stop these problems before they start.
Eyestrain occurs when the eyes focus on anything for an extended period of time. It commonly occurs in office workers who stare at computer screens throughout the day (which, let’s face it, is most of them). While eyestrain has not proven to have long-term effects, it does cause symptoms like blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches that can last throughout the day and interfere with productivity.
Combat the effects of eyestrain by paying close attention to how they feel. If the screen starts to get blurry or a headache starts to creep up, turn away from the computer and chat with a co-worker or grab a cup of coffee or tea.
There are plenty of ways a desk job can contribute to a few extra pounds. Long hours of sitting, catered lunches, stress eating, free snacks and workplace celebrations are all common factors in workplace weight gain.
While some of these can be hard to avoid (who doesn’t love birthday cake?), there are many ways to lose weight on the job. Proper hydration is key to feeling full, so make sure there’s always a cup of water within reach. Pack a nutritious, portion-controlled lunch packed with fruits and veggies, or sneak in some extra activity by taking the stairs, walking over to speak with a co-worker instead of emailing them or getting off the train one stop early.
One helpful way to ensure frequent activity is to make a schedule. Taking a short break, even for just five minutes every half-hour, will help tone down stress and increase comfort. Stuck on a deadline? Take business calls standing up to stretch your legs, improve blood flow and increase focus.
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)
RSI, caused by extensive keyboard use, typically manifests as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in the wrists and fingers. It’s a common problem among office workers and causes a dull ache, pain or numbness.
CTS does not always require treatment, but many who suffer from the condition need wrist splints and corticosteroid injections to manage it. The worst cases require surgery. Minimize risk by taking short, frequent breaks to rest or shake out the hands, massage the palm or stretch and loosen the shoulders and arms.