Wellbeing

5 Ways To Stay Healthy When You Sit At A Desk All Day

It’s a fact of life that many of us work jobs that mean we spend most of the day sitting at a desk looking at screens. It’s unavoidable. Maybe your workplace is a good one, offering ergonomic chairs, standing desks and whatever else you need. That’s only part of the solution to a sedentary working life, however.

Studies show that risks associated with sitting for long periods of time include elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes blood clots, obesity, increased blood pressure and cancer. And it’s not always offset by regular exercise at other times.

Now, before you go and Google “can you die from sitting for too long” (which, yes, you can) there are a few strategies that’ll help you live a long, healthy life, despite your desk job.

Try these five tips to keep healthy in your desk job:

#1 Move regularly

This is the big one. Having a sedentary working life, for which you stay still for hours in the same position, is the main cause for health problems associated with desk jobs. It’s important to get up and move at least every 30 minutes. This could be for anything. Go and make a cup of tea, take bathroom break, or fill your water glass.

You could also do some stretches at your desk to ensure blood flow. Changing your posture regularly is also helpful for a healthy desk life. SafeWork NSW suggests six simple stretches you can do at your desk.

Getting outside on your lunch break can replenish your mental state and help you focus for the rest of the day, too.

#2 Talk to people

Interpersonal contact can also help you keep a healthy desk life, especially when combined with tip #1 above. Instead of using office chat for small questions, get up, walk over to your colleague and ask them in person (even if you’d rather not). You may even get a quicker answer out of them.

If you have a meeting, consider doing it on your feet, or even go for a walking meeting. Sounds like a strange concept for those accustomed to boardroom tables, but it’s a much healthier way of solving the world’s problems (or whatever it is you do at work). Bonus points if the walking meeting takes place outside.

#3 Keep a plant

Studies show that keeping a plant in the office can increase happiness and productivity. So they’re basically magic. A NASA study also indicates that plants are also natural air purifiers, meaning having one on your desk will have you breathing cleaner air all day, every day. Plus, they’re pretty to look at instead of the blank grey walls of your office, right?

#4 Tidy and organise

When you sit at your desk, are you surrounded by little piles of detritus? Stacks of paper? Yesterday’s cups and plates? You’ll feel a lot better at your desk if you reduce clutter and remove even neat piles from your desk. Think about keeping a folder of deal-with-later documents, scan them and keep them on your computer, or admit to yourself you’re never going to get to them and throw them away.

Old, used cup and dishes are just gross and should never be left on your desk – it’s unhygienic for you and your colleagues. Wash them up when you’re done with them.

#5 Drink water

You might remember your sport teachers harping on about this one back in high school – we need water to live. If we don’t drink enough we get dehydrated, with symptoms ranging from headache to tiredness. Not what you want at work!

How much water people need to drink is affected by factors like body weight, gender, how much physical activity the person does, and even the outside temperature.

Australian Dietary Guidelines just recommend to “drink plenty of water”. You might have heard of the rule suggesting eight glasses a day, but it’s not that simple. How much water people need to drink is affected by factors like body weight, gender, how much physical activity the person does, and even the outside temperature.

An easy way to tell is by the colour of your pee – dark yellow and you should be drinking a lot more; light yellow, almost clear colours mean you’re drinking enough.

It’s depressingly common for us to spend long hours at a desk staring at a screen. It’s important to take time in your day to make sure you keep healthy in your desk job (and don’t die from sitting for too long). Look after yourself while you look after your work!

While you’re here, read more tips for staying healthy and happy.


Mitch is Editor of The Cusp, and keeps a 1L water carafe on my desk to be sure I drink enough water.