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Sitting at Work is Harmful: 15 Ways to Fight Fatigue

Tim Boyer's picture
Sitting at work

A recent study confirms that sitting at work is not only harmful to your physical body, but to your mental health as well. Read on to find out how long the average office worker sits per day and discover 15 ways to fight fatigue while sitting at work.

Within the past few years, researchers studying Occupational Health in the workplace have gathered conclusive evidence supporting a workplace hazard trend that many office workers have known all along: sitting at work can be as harmful as handling heavy machinery or handling hazardous materials.

In one study in New Zealand, researchers have shown that sitting for long periods at your desk, especially at a computer workstation, causes an increase in the risk of developing blood clots in your legs known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

The danger of developing deep vein thrombosis is that the blood clots can migrate from your legs to your lungs and heart and cause cardiac arrest.

A recent finding by researchers at the Work & Health Research Centre at Loughborough University, is that office workers sit too long at their desks during work and that it is taking a toll on their minds as well as their bodies.

The study involved an 18-month period during 2009-2011 where psychologists conducted on-line and paper-based surveys of over 1000 employees that looked at and measured not only their lifestyle and physical activity levels, but also other health factors such as time spent sitting, work ability, general health and job attitudes.

What the researchers found was that during a typical work-week, office workers spend on average 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk and 7 hours sleeping at night. Furthermore, that those office workers who sit for prolonged periods at work tend to also spend a considerable amount of time sitting at home, have a body mass index (BMI) that correlates with time spent sitting, and are subject to a decrease in mental well-being.

In spite of Occupational Health guidelines that recommend specific levels of activity for maintaining good health, researchers have found that 50% of those people surveyed who are aged 50 years and under, failed to meet these guidelines—a growing problem found in workplaces worldwide.

Findings such as these are not surprising. The advent of computing technology has dramatically increased productivity in the workplace, which previously required much more time spent out of the office chair and moving about. Today, almost all business activities can take place in one spot at the click of a mouse. Writing, for example, used to require multiple trips to a library for research as well as visits for interviews. Now however, search engines find us the info we need and interviews are typically done by phone and E-mail to save time.

As many writers can attest, writing not only broadens the mind, but it broadens the butt as well.

As such, writers are no different than office workers in the respect that we spend too much time sitting down and not standing up, with the result that a need for taking breaks from sitting is important to our health.

However, when deadlines prevent us from being “up and about” as much as we should, we can at least move around while still at our desk and achieve some level of activity that not only will help fight fatigue, but make sitting a little healthier too.

The following are 15 exercises suggested by writer John Smith from his post on the “Working Writers and Bloggers” blog site that you can do while sitting in front of your computer:

1. Shoulders
•Roll your shoulders forward and backward 10 times each to relieve tension and ease the muscles.
•Breathe in, lift your shoulders, crunch your neck, hold your breath for 30 seconds and then release your shoulders. Do this 10 times.
•Move each shoulder forward and backward alternatively, 10 times on each side.

2. Neck
•Stretch your neck forward, backward, to the left and right. This move reduces the strain on your neck, shoulders, and clears your mind.
•Clench your neck muscles until they’re taut. Hold for a few seconds and then release.

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3. Chest
•Open your arms wide push your wrists and thumbs back and stretch your arms away from your shoulders. This will expand your chest and allow you to take in more oxygen. Repeat this exercise every hour or so.

4. Tummy
•Breathe in, suck in your tummy, hold it in for a few seconds, and then release it as you breathe out. Repeat this move every few minutes during your day.
•Breathe in and pull in your pelvic floor muscles. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release.

5. Arms
•Grab a full water bottle and hold it up over your head. Keep this position for 30 seconds and alternate with your other arm.
•Sit straight, move your chair back and hold both your arms out straight in front of you. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then relax.
•Rotate your arms clockwise and anticlockwise 10 times on each side.

6. Wrists
•Roll your wrists both clockwise and anticlockwise every now and then, at least 10 times with each wrist. Wrists are prone to Repetitive Stress Syndrome and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; you can prevent these from occurring by constantly working out your wrists.
•Flap your wrists frontwards and backwards as though you’re serving a tennis ball. Repeat this move several times.

7. Hands
•Squeeze a hand gripper repeatedly for at least a minute with each hand. You can do this while reading something on your screen.
•Keep your palms straight in front of you, and spread your fingers as far as they will go. Keep the position for a few seconds and then release. Repeat several times.

8. Fingers
•Get hold of exercise rubber bands or any strong, thick rubber bands. Loop a band around your forefingers and stretch it as far as you can and then release. Do this with your other fingers.
•Interlace your fingers and push your elbows apart. Do this as often as you can. The stretch feels good for fingers that have strained on the keyboard all day.

9. Ankles
•Roll your ankles clockwise and anticlockwise every hour or so.
•Take off your shoes if possible, stand on your toes and lean back. Your ankles will strengthen with this exercise.

10. Feet
•Clench all your toes and release them after a few seconds.
•Move all your toes and allow air to pass between them.

11. Calves
•Stretch your leg out in front of you and pull back your feet. This stretches your calves. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release. Do it 10 times with both legs.
•Lift your legs on the balls of your feet; hold the position for a few seconds and then release. This exercise will prevent blood clots from forming.

12. Thighs
•Breathe in, lift both legs together upwards towards your chest, keep your legs up for 30 seconds and release as you breathe out. Repeat every hour. This will pull at your thigh muscles and tighten them.
•Clench your butt and thighs and hold the position for 30 seconds. Release and repeat several times.

13. Butt
•Clench and unclench your buttocks alternately, holding them in the clenched position for 30 seconds each time.
•Clench both buttocks together and release them after 30 seconds.

14. Back
•Push your shoulders back until they meet in the middle of your back. Push your body slightly forward and exercise your back muscles. Hold the position for a few seconds and then release.
•Keep your body straight and twist your upper body at the waist to the left and the right. Twist it as far as it will go, moving your head along with your waist. This will relax your back muscles, which take most of the strain during your workday.

15. Eyes
•Shut your eyes twice every hour. Place the pads of your palms on your eyes and apply mild pressure. This will relieve eyestrain.
•Take your eyes off your monitor and let them wander around for a few seconds every now and then. This exercise keeps your eyes alert and reduces possible headaches and eye irritation.

Image source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

1. The British Psychological Society

2. Working Writers and Bloggers