6 Ways Sitting at a Desk Is Bad For Your Health

02/20/2013

Hip pain photoI’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not typing this story from my standing desk. In fact, as a writer, I sit at my desk for hours on end, Sitting can take a permanent toll on your body if you're not careful.

But there are steps that you can take to stave off issues before they are beyond your control. You can avoid a host of ailments by taking a few simple steps.

1. Tight Hips

If you sit at your desk for too long, especially with your legs crossed, you may notice that your hips begin to tighten up. And once you stand up, it may even be difficult to walk. 

If you feel tightness in the hips, try bound angle pose or baddha konasana. From a seated position, bring the bottoms of your feet together and open them like a book. Inhale to extend the back body and exhale to fold forward with a flat back. Hold and breathe for five to 10 breaths. 

2. Lower Back Pain

This is one of the most common complaints for those that sit at a desk all day. The lower back begins to feel cramped and locked. It too needs to be stretched throughout the day to avoid pain. 

Try upward-facing dog or urdvah mukha svanasana. Come to hands and knees and pull through to upward-facing dog. The legs and arms should be extended and the pelvis should be off the mat. Hold and breathe for five breaths. If this is too much for you, release the elbows down to the mat. 

3. Computer Vision Syndrome 

Staring at a computer for too many hours a day can actually cause vision problems. It’s called computer vision syndrome and it makes your eyes burn and water, according to ABC Local. Other symptoms include dry eyes, headaches, and blurry vision.

To avoid computer vision syndrome remember to blink. While it seems simple, when you’re staring at a computer, you often cease to blink, causing dry eyes. The top of the computer should be at eye level. Take breaks and remember to look around the room every once in a while. 

4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by a repetitive motion such as typing. It can put pressure on the median nerve, causing numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.  

Make sure that your keyboard is low enough that your wrists aren't bent upwards. Periodically stretch your wrists by turning your palms away from your body and releasing the palms down to your desk to stretch the inside of the wrist. Turn the palms toward you and press the tops of the hands down to the desk to stretch the front of the wrist.

Stretching at desk photo5. Shoulder Tightness

Your shoulders are so knotted that your massage therapist doesn't know where to start. At the end of every stressful day you can feel the tension building. Tight shoulders are common because of the way we sit and because we often hold stress in our shoulders. 

Start by working on your posture. Lift your shoulders up to the ears, push them back a few inches, and then drop them back down. Notice the difference in posture. Avoid hunching over your computer screen and remember to breathe.

6. Premature Death

Forget bodily pain, over time sitting too much can cause premature death. An Australian study to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed 222,000 people, 45 years and older. The study found that your mortality risk begins to spike after 11 hours of sitting. Those who sat between 8 and 11 hours found that their risk went up 15 percent compared to those who sat 4 hours or less per day.

Get up and move around. It may sound stupid, but devote five minutes to regaining the flow in your body. Start with your legs, shaking them out individually, then your arms, and shoulders. Bend over and let your head hang like a rag doll. Turn your head yes and no. Find ways to introduce movement everyday.

Brand X Images/Stockbyte

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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