In the rankings of high-risk jobs, anything involving sitting at a desk all day is probably very close to the bottom. Indeed, office work is not generally considered unsafe or harmful to one’s health, but the truth is that sedentary work brings a whole host of often-overlooked risks that can lead to long-term health issues. If you sit in an office for the vast majority of the day, there are some things happening in your body that you want to be aware of so you can properly address and combat them before they become chronic.
6 Ways Your Desk Job Is Negatively Affecting Your Health
Here are six of the most significant ways your desk job is negatively impacting your health.
It’s Putting Pressure on Your Back and Spine
Gravity is at play when you spend the whole day sitting, which can lead to stress, misalignment, and curvature of the spine. At the same time, hunching or sitting awkwardly throughout the day can contribute to permanently poor posture, which can affect your self-esteem, back and spine health, and digestion. While desk work seems to be a fairly safe professional realm for those with back pain, it’s actually quite detrimental. Perhaps unsurprisingly, back pain is the single leading cause of disability in the world.
It’s Causing Your Muscles to Atrophy
One of the biggest dangers of being routinely sedentary is the way it affects your muscles. The fact is that muscles need to be worked in order to remain strong and nimble, and when they’re barely doing anything throughout the day they will atrophy (waste away) over time. Poor muscle strength can lead to injury and can put extra stress on the spine and joints, which can lead to even bigger problems down the road.
It’s Contributing to Weight Gain
Sedentary workers are at a heightened risk for becoming obese, studies show. Less sedentary jobs provide workers with more exercise and opportunities to burn calories throughout the day, which generally correlates to less weight gain. Those who are overweight or obese face a number of serious health issues, including a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.
It’s Leading to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve compression disorder caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. It is common among workers who use their hands frequently and is often exacerbated by constant use of the keyboard and mouse. This is especially true for workers who went from higher risk factor jobs—such as garden work or using any air-powered hand tools—to desk work, where its effects may be heightened.
It’s Causing Depression and Anxiety
The stress, lack of exercise, loneliness, and indoor environment associated with all-day desk work can contribute to or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Working in a more physical role can lead to the same positive effects of exercise, such as better mood and less anxiety. Of course, the high-stress and multitasking demand of some desk jobs can trigger a natural stress response that leads to feelings of depression and anxiety.
It’s Causing Eye Issues
We still don’t know exactly how the blue light from our computer screens and digital devices is affecting the health of our eyes in the long term, but we do know that staring at a screen all day does something to the eyes. In fact, many people develop what’s known as computer vision syndrome after years of computer work. This syndrome is marked by eye fatigue, dry eyes, headache, and neck and shoulder pain. Good lighting, a higher-quality monitor, and routine eye exams can help.
How to Combat the Effects of a Sedentary Job
If you’re like most people, you can’t just up and quit your job in search of something a bit less physically taxing. And, to be honest, all jobs have their inherent health risks, so it’s probably not worth your while anyway. For most people, the only solution is to work on making the job you have a bit less harmful. Here are some of the best ways to do it.
- Create an ergonomic workspace. Ergonomics refers to the science of making your workspace work for you. By adjusting your desk and desk chair to the ideal height and investing in a supportive chair, you can reduce some of the risks associated with back and spine health.
- Sit and stand periodically throughout the day. Consider swapping out your normal desk for a sit-stand desk that lets you do some of your work standing up. While standing all day isn’t good for your health, either, breaking up the day and alternating between sitting and standing may have positive long-term effects.
- Ease the pain in your off-work hours. Think of your off-work hours as a time to soothe and correct the negative effects of desk work. Get plenty of exercise and treat pain in healthy, productive ways. For example, try laser therapy for back pain or schedule routine massages to work out the pain.
- Sit on a bouncy ball throughout the day. Surprisingly, a lot of the pain associated with the back comes from a weak core. Sitting on an exercise ball or bouncy stool for a portion of the day can help you gain strength and stability in your core, which may lead to a decrease in back pain and better posture.
- Stick to healthy lifestyle choices. It’s especially important for those with a sedentary lifestyle to make every effort possible to counteract obesity, muscle atrophy, and depression. Eating a healthy diet and getting the recommended weekly amount of exercise (150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity) will help.
Create a Good Balance Each Day
Simply by knowing how your desk job is affecting your health, you’re already on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Combating the damaging effects of a sedentary lifestyle may be as simple as standing for a portion of the day, changing your diet, or upping the amount of exercise you get each week. Creating a healthy balance between sitting and moving is a great place to start!