The good news is, there are ways to develop a new habit of sitting less. Read on to find out the health problems caused by a desk-bound job and steps to alleviate or prevent them:
1. Lower back pain
This is a very common problem amongst office workers, especially if desks and chairs aren’t ergonomic. Lower back pain can become a chronic condition and lead to bigger problems in future.
Ways to prevent lower back pain:
- Get a good chair that can be adjusted to support your lower back and has five wheels. If your chair doesn’t work properly anymore, ask for a new one!
- Use a cushion for extra support.
- Stand up and move about frequently.
- Maintain a good posture by sitting all the way back in your chair, hands parallel to the floor and resting on the desk. Avoid crossing your legs too often as this restricts blood flow and also puts strain on your back.
2. Neck and shoulder strain
Studies show that up to 45% of people suffer work-related neck pain. This can be caused by answering phone calls by placing the receiver in the crook of your neck for a long period of time. A computer screen that’s too low or too high, causing you to bend your neck forward unnaturally, is also a big factor in causing pain.
Ways to prevent neck and shoulder strain:
- Hold the phone with your hand, not your neck and shoulder, when answering or making a call.
- Adjust the height of your monitor so that the top of the monitor is at eye level or slightly below it.
3. Eye strain
Staring at screens all day long, be it your phone (we’re not just talking about Pokemon Go), tablet or computer, contributes to eye strain. This is caused by the “blue light” emitted as well as bad lighting, as you tend to squint and put pressure on the eyes if reflections and glare make it hard to read off the screen. You may experience headaches and even nausea if not corrected.
Ways to reduce eye strain:
- Keep to the ideal 40 – 75 cm distance between the computer screen and your eyes.
- Look far – Take a vision break every 20 minutes by focusing on something further away, say 10-15 metres. Looking out of the window, even for 30 seconds, helps with blood circulation and relaxes your eyes.
- Get an antiglare screen or move your computer away from bad light.
4. Obesity and heart disease
This is especially worrying for those who have a sedentary job and don’t exercise, as this increases the risk of becoming overweight and other related health issues like diabetes and heart disease. You may also becoming easily tired and not up to speed with daily tasks.
Ways to avoid gaining weight at the office:
- Put a timer on your computer or smartphone prompting you to stand and stretch every hour. Get the whole team involved so it becomes a group effort and you don’t feel self-conscious!
- Make the effort to exercise before, in between or after work hours. Do yoga or pilates classes to improve flexibility, keep core strength active and correct posture.
- If you are really time-strapped, exercise can also include taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking as much as you can during lunch.
- Get an exercise buddy at work, so you can motivate each other.
5. Carpal tunnel syndrome
If you’re sitting at your computer all day, chances are that your hands and wrists are getting the most exercise. But small repetitive motions, like typing on the keyboard or using a mouse, can cause carpal tunnel which is a painful condition characterised by numbing, weakness, tingling and pain in the fingers and wrist. It’s caused by a pinched nerve passing over the carpal bones in your wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can make it difficult to concentrate on your tasks, apart from making it hard to drive or eat.
Ways to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:
- Keep your wrist supported at all times such as leaving a gap between the keyboard and your desk edge, using an ergonomic keyboard or using wrist supports.
- Take frequent breaks or alternate your tasks.
- Make sure your keyboard is at elbow height or a bit lower.
6. High levels of stress
It’s normal to face stress at work, as long as the stress propels you to work better and smarter. But too much stress for too long can negatively impact your psychological health, affecting your ability to perform and cause physical symptoms like all the above.
If you find yourself having a cold or flu every few weeks, becoming upset over the littlest of things, or easily tired and lethargic, stress might be a big factor. High stress levels increase the cortisol levels in the blood which can lower immunity levels, leaving you more vulnerable to illness.
- Recognise the first signs of stress like headaches, inability to concentrate properly, dry mouth and feeling unusually irritable. Once you know you are overly stressed, you can make more targeted solutions.
- Talk to your superiors or a confidante, in a calm way of course. Your boss will no know what you are going through, unless you speak up.
- Plan a to-do list and tick it off as you finish each task.
- Read these articles for handy tips to relieve stress: 10 Ways To Relieve Stress For a Healthier Life, 10 Foods That Can Help Reduce Stress and 8 Ways To Feel Less Stressed At Work.
Text: Homes+ / Additional Reporting: Elizabeth Liew