Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, the world is more connected and efficient than ever before. As a result, a greater number of people are spending their days working at a desk, staring at a screen.

While potentially great for work-life balance, these sedentary work environments encourage many unhealthy habits and can cause both minor and serious health issues. A few simple tricks are all it takes to combat these problems and stay healthy while working at a desk.

Take a Mental Break

Though the idea that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish has been debunked, studies do show that everyone has a limit before their mind wanders. One of the best ways to refocus is to take a brief mental break.

Just 13 minutes of meditation or mindfulness a day can boost mood, memory, and focus. Every so often, find time to take some deep breaths and relax.

woman stretching taking break at her desk


Drink More Water

Many people do not drink anything until they start to feel thirsty, but we're already starting to get dehydrated at this point. Dehydration can limit attentiveness and cognitive function, impacting work performance.

To boost focus and stay healthy, desk workers should drink fluids regularly throughout the day. If you're sitting at a desk for eight hours, aim to down just over half a gallon of water every day. Consider keeping a big bottle that holds that amount beside your keyboard; try to refill your glass until the bottle is empty.

woman at her office desk drinking from a water bottle


Follow the 20-20-20 Rule

For most people, desk work involves staring at a screen for hours a day, which results in dry eyes and eye strain. Many experts support the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes of staring at a screen, stop to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

This helps limit the consequences of that short-range focus, which include headaches, eye strain, and dry eyes.

man at his desk looking out the window


Fix Your Sitting Posture

Posture is an incredibly important but often overlooked aspect of our health, especially while sitting for long periods. Slouched sitting positions have links to worse breathing, drops in cognitive ability, and greater sensitivity to stressors. Sitting improperly can also contribute to neck and shoulder tension, headaches, and muscle pain.

If you find you're struggling to maintain a proper sitting posture, try using an exercise ball in place of a chair to encourage minor adjustments and prevent slouching. If this is not a viable option, rolling up a towel and placing it against the chair where your lower back curves can provide lumbar support and encourage a healthy sitting position.

Woman at her office desk with back pain from bad posture


Stand and Stretch

Another way to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day is to stand up and stretch from time to time. In a study on desk workstation-related pain, regular stretching exercises dramatically reduced pain symptoms.

Combining this with other activities like going for a walk or getting up for a cup of water—think habit-stacking!—can be a great way to increase your daily wellness.

man using his desk to do a quad leg stretch taking break


Bring a Lunch

Our diets play a massive role in how we feel day-to-day, as well as how our bodies function throughout our lives. When working at a desk all day, it can be tempting to pop out of the office and grab some lunch from a nearby restaurant or cue up a delivery on your phone.

However, this encourages poor eating habits and often limits nutrients. Bringing lunch from home encourages healthy, well-rounded meals that provide enough energy to get through the day. Bringing an exciting meal can help you look forward to your break, but not everyone has time for that. Aim for something with carbs, healthy fats, and protein, even if it's super simple or last night's leftovers.

people at an office having home lunches together


Get Plenty of Sleep

After a long day of work, getting to sleep at night can be difficult, especially if you didn't move around much. However, not getting enough sleep can cause a range of negative effects, many of which affect people long-term.

A single night of poor sleep can cause a person to take longer to finish tasks, make more mistakes, and have a slower reaction time. Getting enough sleep will boost performance at the office while fending off major issues like heart disease and stroke.

young woman sleeping happily in bed


Make Smart Snack Choices

There is nothing wrong with snacking a little bit at work to keep energy levels high, but when people start making a habit of nutrient-poor foods from the vending machine or a local restaurant, they're opening the door to negative health impacts.

Healthy snack choices like granola bars, nuts, fruits, and veggies are filling, nutritious, and energizing without maxing out calories on less filling ingredients. Water-rich fruits like watermelon slices, oranges, or strawberries can even serve as another source of hydration.

woman enjoying grapes as office snack


Don't Rely on Caffeine

Workers around the world struggle to start their days without a hot cup of coffee in the morning. While a cuppa joe in the a.m. isn't a bad thing, if caffeine becomes a crutch for combatting poor sleep, you'll start to find that despite a short-term boost in focus, these beverages usually result in a crash later in the day.

Drinking too much caffeine (most research says that's more than four one-cup servings) can also lead to sleep deprivation and insomnia at night. Beyond that, excess coffee consumption contributes to feelings of stress and anxiety and can lead to physical issues like headaches and dizziness.

woman drinking herbal tea while on a virtual meeting


Go Outside

Research shows that nature really does have healing properties, though many people do not spend enough time outdoors to experience them. Direct sunlight can help fight low mood and fatigue and even improve depression symptoms.

Additionally, spending time in nature can have an effect similar to meditation, providing mental restoration. On breaks or during lunch, take some time to get out of the office and breathe in some fresh air, even if it's just a walk around an urban block.

two businesswomen walking outside having a meeting


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.