Did you know that sitting too much can make you sick? Research shows that sitting for extended lengths of time can increase your risk for serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even death.
Sitting at a computer all day can also cause other uncomfortable symptoms including dry eyes, as well as neck and back pain.
If your job requires you to be on a computer most of the day, there are things you can do to help yourself stay healthy.
1) Get moving
Just because you work on a computer doesn’t mean you have to be chained to your chair. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to get up and move at least once every hour. You don’t have to go far — just walking up and down the hallway or to the bathroom and back can get your blood circulating.
You can also do simple exercises while sitting at your desk, such as lifting your feet off the floor and swiveling back and forth to stretch your abs, or reaching for the ceiling to stretch.
If you work in a building with multiple floors, take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have too many floors to walk up or down, take the elevator to the floor one or two below your destination and take the stairs the rest of the way.
Drinking water is good for your health. Plus drinking plenty during the day will give you an added reminder to get up to use the bathroom and refill your water bottle.
3) Set up your desk for success
If your work area is not optimized for your personal body size, you may be asking for headaches, dry eyes and more.
Looking down too much puts strain on your neck and back. Looking up at the monitor can make your eyes dry. Adjust the height of your monitor so you can look directly across at it. You can invest in a custom monitor stand, or just use a stack of books to get the right height.
4) Adjust your keyboard
If your keyboard is too far away or too high, you may have arm or back pain from reaching for it. This can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
Ideally, your keyboard should be set at a height that lets your elbows hang, your shoulders stay down and relaxed, and your wrists level.
If you can’t lower your keyboard, try raising your chair and getting a footrest. Just be sure you adjust your monitor height if you end up sitting higher.
5) Fix your posture
When you come back to your chair, make sure you at least start out with good posture. Sitting at a desk all day, especially in front of a computer, can lock you into one uncomfortable position for hours on end. Remind yourself to move around and change position from time to time.
If you find yourself leaning forward or pointing your chin toward your computer screen, you might be sitting too far from the monitor or you may have the print size too small. If your neck is tense from leaning forward, relax it by tucking your chin into your throat to help realign your neck and spine.
6) Protect your vision
Trying to read small type on your monitor can lead to squinting which in turn leads to tired eyes and headaches. Take advantage of your technology to make the type bigger, either for the whole computer or for documents you spend a lot of time working on.
It’s also important to think about blinking. We all blink automatically. But if you are like most people, you blink less when you are looking at a computer screen. This can make your eyes both tired and dry.
Post a note where you’ll be sure to see it reminding yourself to blink more.
7) Look away from the computer
Use the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a much deserved break. Set an alarm for 20 minutes and when it goes off, look way from the screen to a distance of about 20 feet for 20 seconds. Then reset the alarm before you go back to work.
8) Give your eyes a break
When it’s break time, give your eyes a rest by staying away from your phone or other screens for at least a few minutes. After work, spend some time enjoying the scenery outside your window before you curl up in front of the TV.
Don’t let your computer or desk hold you hostage. Make a point to get up and move for at least a few minutes every hour.
If you have questions about how sitting is affecting your health, talk to your health care provider.
Reviewed March 3, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Pure Wow. 8 Things You Need to Do If You Sit at a Computer All Day. Web. March 2, 2016.
Time. 5 Tips to Stay Healthy If You Sit at a Computer All Day. John Patrick Pullen. Web. March 2, 2016.
CBS News. Too much sitting raises risk of death, even if you exercise. Web. March 2, 2016.
MedicineNet. How to Set Up Your Keyboard and Mouse at Your Computer. Web. March 2, 2016.