JULIE MISSIMORE, head of policy – Americas, ACCA
Do you spend eight hours a day or more sitting behind a desk, working at a computer? That certainly seems like a long portion of your day staying seated without much activity. And if you factor in lengthy commutes, you might be sitting for ten to 12 hours a day!
Whether you’re an accountant, financial professional, or in some other occupation that has you off your feet and behind a desk for most of the day, take note: our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are impacting our health. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t just cause weight gain and increasing waistlines, but it also increases your risk of cancer, diabetes, and developing back pain. Sedentary lifestyles can also cause you to sleep more poorly.
So what’s an accountant (or anyone who sits at a desk all day) to do? While it seems daunting at first to try and make healthy choices when the business world keeps telling you to stay seated at your desk, but there are some easy steps you can take that will make a difference for your health. Take care of yourself while taking care of your work. Keep reading for 11 tips to help you get healthy while working in an office:
1. Take the stairs. Skip the elevator and take the stairs when you can. This will keep you moving in the beginning and end of your workday. Making one good decision can help set you up for success – both professionally and physically – so get moving.
2. Get up and stretch! Try to take frequent stretch breaks while you’re sitting at your desk working away. Touch your toes, stretch out your forearms, or otherwise move your body to keep yourself limber throughout the day. Get oxygen flowing throughout your body and stimulate your muscles.
3. Set reminders. Set alarms on your phone or watch to remind yourself to stretch or to take a quick walk away from your desk. These little reminders will help ensure that you keep your health a priority.
4. Schedule “walk-and-talk” meetings. Getting your body moving helps get your brain thinking so next time you need to have a one-on-one meeting with a colleague to brainstorm a new idea or work out a problem, consider holding a walk-and-talk meeting. It will get you moving and away from your desk while stimulating your creativity.
5. Snack smart and snack often. Pack a stash of healthy snacks to eat throughout your day to keep your blood sugar stable and improve your energy. Consider packing single servings of nuts, vegetable sticks, hummus or avocado as easy to go to snacks. Eating a healthy snack will help you feel fuller longer and provide more fuel to get you through your day than a piece of candy or other sugary treat.
6. Drink your water! Be sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day and staying hydrated. People often confuse being slightly dehydrated for being hungry, so drinking more water will help you from overeating. And when your cup or your water bottle is empty, refilling it provides an excellent reminder to stand up from your desk and take a short walk to the water cooler or fountain.
7. Take time for lunch. While it can be tempting to sit at your desk and eat a quick lunch so you can keep working away or taking care of personal tasks, consider stepping away and eating your lunch in a break room or outdoor area. A change of scenario, and a change of posture, will be good for you.
8. Perfect your posture. Even if you have to sit behind a desk to do your job, focus on your posture to help prevent back pain or strain. Sit upright with your back straight instead of hunching your back.
9. Rest your eyes. Staring at a computer screen all day is surprisingly tiring, especially if you don’t give your eyes a rest. Take mini breaks every 20 minutes, either by closing your eyes for a few seconds or looking away momentarily.
10. Exercise outside the office. While it’s great to ensure your health while in the office, set yourself up for success by exercising outside of the office. Get into the routine of running in the morning or calming your mind at the end of the day with an evening yoga session. Find something you enjoy and stick with it.
11. Smile! Just smiling can serve as a little pick me up. Smiling invokes a physiological and hormonal response so it doesn’t hurt to try it out if you’re having a bad day. And a positive outlook is a healthy outlook.
Working a desk job doesn’t mean you need to forget about living a healthy lifestyle. Making little changes can have a big impact on your physical and mental health and well-being. There are certainly ways of adjusting your work lifestyle that can help you stay fit and positive. So the next time you want to reach for a bag of chips to power you through your day, think about making a different choice – a healthier snack or a walk around the block – that might be the energy boost you need.
If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to take a walk in the fresh air before I sit at this desk any longer!