Anyone who has worked or is currently working in the IT career field knows what it’s like to sit in a chair for eight or more hours a day. Some of us even work ten or more hours in a day if there is an outage, product release, or upgrade going on. Sitting in a chair for that long and staring at a computer screen can be damaging to the body and overall health.
However, just because you work in a sedentary job, doesn’t mean you have to be sedentary. Gadgets like the Fitbit or Apple Watch help remind us to get up and move at least once every hour. The settings on those devices can even be set more aggressively so you get up and move every half hour. It is not necessary to get up and go out and run a mile – there are smaller things you can do that will make your job less sedentary and improve your health.
Here’s how you can move more and sit less throughout the day without drastically interrupting your work flow.
Just standing up once or twice every hour helps to reset your brain and get your blood flowing again. The longer you sit down, the achier your body will feel and the more your neck and back will hurt. This is due to the nature of craning our necks to look at our computer screen and talk on the phone and type – sometimes all at the same time! Doing this for hours on end without a break can really wreak havoc on your joints. This tip is probably the easiest to implement because all it takes is to simply stand up at your desk for a period of time, then go back to sitting and working.
If you have a generous boss who will buy you a standing desk, that’s an even better option. There are many standing desk varieties out there and they can be a bit pricey, so do your homework. For those of you that just need to stand more, try the 20-8-2 method: every half hour, sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, and move around for 2 minutes, that’s it!
Go For a Walk
There have been many studies done on the benefits of walking and its effects on the body that we should all know the benefits by now. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can be super beneficial – and more than that is even better. The U.S. Department of Labor mandates that every employee that works an eight hour day is required to receive two 10 minute paid breaks daily and a 30 minute lunch. There you have three opportunities to go for a walk in your eight hour day. Take a walk mid-morning, one just after you finish eating, and then a short walk in the afternoon. Your blood pressure will decrease, your brain will be refreshed, and you will feel invigorated upon returning to your workspace. If you live in a sunny place, that is even better; you will reap the benefits of soaking up some sunshine before returning to your desk.
Staring at a computer monitor, tablet or laptop for an extended period of time can really do a number on your neck, back and eyes. Stretching at least once every hour you are at work can be very beneficial to the health of your joints, hands and yes, your eyes. Can you stretch your eyeballs? No, that would be weird, but you can exercise them to help relieve eye strain. Every hour, pick a target in the room to look at that is at least 25 feet or more away. Focus on that object for 20 seconds, and then switch to focusing on an object that is 5 feet away for 20 seconds. Go back and forth between the objects to exercise your eyes and alleviate eye strain.
We spend so much time craning our neck to read a text message or look at a computer monitor, it is important to do some light stretching to help those areas. For your neck, lean your head to your left shoulder and hold for a 10 count, then do the right side for a 10 count. Next, place your chin on your chest to stretch the back of your neck and hold it for a 10 count. All three stretches make up one circuit; do 3 circuits every hour. For your back you can stand up and touch your toes and hold for a 10 count, which will help to loosen your lower back muscles and hamstrings. Then, interlock your fingers and reach for the sky and hold for a 10 count to stretch the upper muscles of the back.
You Don’t Have to Be Sedentary
I think that you will find as you move around more, stand up often, and do some stretching at your desk, your day will be better and productivity will go up. The term “sitting is the new smoking” has been floating around for a while now, and while it seems like a stretch, it is much closer to reality than we might think. By implementing these simple tips, you can be more active and avoid the sedentary IT lifestyle.