Picture this: In your 20s, you skip breakfast to reach office early. Once the meeting is over, you have coffee and two-three biscuits. You work till late evening. A decade later, you struggle to work, for your shoulder and neck are stiff from slouching in front of the computer for too long; you are overweight, constantly tired, depressed and stressed.
Working in a closed office can damage your health in more ways than you can imagine. Here are some work habits you should get rid of at the earliest.
Walk, stand and stretch
On an average, most of us spend 8-10 hours a day in office. This adds up to 50-60 hours every week. And most of these hours are spent sitting. According to a study published last year in the International Journal Of Epidemiology, the lack of movement, whether sitting or standing, is cause for concern. According to a report, “Is Your Job Making You Fat?”, published in 2010 in the journal Preventive Medicine,office workers have become less active over the last three decades—this partly explains the rise in obesity levels.
Navneet Kaur, senior consultant, internal medicine, at the Apollo Spectra Hospitals in New Delhi, says, “Even simple steps like walking up to a colleague to discuss an issue instead of writing an email or calling on the phone can help.”
In fact, a study published in June in Preventing Chronic Disease, another journal, says that changing even one seated meeting per week at work into a walking meeting can increase the work-related physical activity levels of white-collar workers by 10 minutes. “Sitting increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease even if you exercise later in the day,” says S.K. Gupta, senior consultant cardiologist at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in the Capital. “Heart disease happens when the blood flow is blocked and cholesterol builds up in the arteries, and sitting does both effectively,” he says, adding that it’s essential to stand for 8 minutes and stretch for 2 minutes for every half-hour of sitting.
Remind yourself constantly to get up for a drink, stand in meetings, sit on something uncomfortable and wobbly like an exercise ball or backless stool and be constantly on the move, says Dr Gupta. And always take the stairs.
One of the most harmful habits among working professionals is bad ergonomics. “Most people spend hours slouched in front of the computer, sitting on furniture that’s not ergonomically designed, which damages muscles, tendons and nerves of the neck, shoulders, forearms and hands,” says Yash Gulati, senior consultant, orthopaedics, at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. This can lead to conditions like repetitive strain injury, tendonitis, chronic pain around the joints and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The solution is ergonomic furniture and constant movement. If your company is not investing in furniture, focus on your posture, says Delhi-based fitness expert Vesna Pericevic Jacob. “Sit on the chair with your feet in line with your Iliac crest, the bony area across your lower belly, your pelvis either at the same level or slightly higher than the knee. Your knee should be at an angle of 90-105 degrees, and the soles of the feet should be flat on the floor,” she says. Keep the stomach relaxed and lengthen your lower back, constantly pulling your neck upwards and shoulders back. If the right posture becomes second nature, says Jacob, a lot of aches and pains will recede.
Rest your eyes
Staring at a phone, tablet or computer screen constantly causes stress and fatigues the eyes. “The human eye structurally is more relaxed when it looks at objects more than 6m away, so to look at anything closer puts extra pressure on the eye muscles, causing fatigue and leading to symptoms like blurred vision, temporary inability to focus on faraway objects and headaches,” says D.S. Chadha, additional director, internal medicine, at the Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital in Delhi. Don’t keep any screen too close to your eyes, put it either at eye level or slightly lower, and reduce the contrast and brightness. Take breaks to look at faraway objects and have regular eye examinations, he adds.
Take breaks in between
There are just a few hours every day when we can all concentrate. Working longer than that is bad for the heart and blood pressure, says Mukesh Mehra, senior consultant, internal medicine, at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi.
A study published in 2015 in The Lancet journal, which looked at 600,000 individuals in Australia, the US and UK, found that people who work for more than 55 hours a week have a 33% greater risk of stroke and 13% greater risk of coronary heart disease. “If you have to work long hours, minimize the stress by taking regular breaks for yoga, meditation and exercise,” says Dr Mehra.
Jacob says there is an easy technique to practise meditation for 10 minutes every day: “Inhale deeply until your stomach fully extends and then pull your navel in towards your spine as you exhale.”
Don’t skip lunch
Never skip lunch and never have it at the desk. Eating lunch at the desk invites germs to the work area, says Dr Chadha. And skipping it will lead to sluggishness and irritability, and fog up your brain and thinking abilities.
Also, take a stroll daily after lunch—this will boost your vitamin D levels and improve your digestive system and oxygen levels. “A walk refreshes you and brings greater clarity and intelligence for the post-lunch work session,” adds Dr Chadha.
Follow strict hygiene
There’s no bigger turn-off than bad breath. Smelly armpits or teeth with food stuck in between are both offensive to colleagues and bad for your career, says Rahul Tambe, physician, general medicine, at Mumbai’s Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital. “Brush your teeth regularly or at least twice a day and use a mouthwash after having food during working hours,” he suggests. Stay away from smelly foods like garlic, onion and pickles, and avoid smoking or chewing tobacco. In addition, consult your dentist regularly to rule out dental problems.
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