5 Ways To Keep Your Body Feeling Its Best When You Work A Desk Job

By Caitlin Booth

A person on a short flight of stairs, outdoors, leaning to the side but supporting their weight by holding onto the handrail.

As far as risky behaviour goes, sitting quietly at a desk doesn’t seem particularly high stakes at first glance. But if you’re studying or your job requires a computer, you’ll be familiar with that feeling of lethargy when peeling yourself away from the screen hours after first sitting down. Your brain is often foggy and your limbs, back and neck often feel tight in all the wrong places. 

It’s easy to feel like it’s not a huge deal once you’ve stepped away from the tech, started to move your body again and let your eyes have a break from the screen. But when you drill down, the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time are significant. In fact, they have been likened to the effects of smoking regularly—and physical inactivity is the second highest cause of cancer in Australia, behind tobacco smoking.

That’s a pretty scary fact when a lot of us earn our bread and butter in jobs that require hours in front of a screen every day. But the good news is the solution is simple: changing your habits slightly to move your body a little bit more. According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel, ‘The less sitting or lying down you do during the day, the better your chances for living a healthy life.’

As part of The Well, in partnership with HBF, we’ve wrapped up some top tips on how to keep your body moving throughout the day to support your overall wellbeing and to keep you feeling your best all week long. 

Use A Timer To Factor In Scheduled Movement Breaks

The first step is setting yourself up for success by factoring in consistent breaks throughout the day. There’s no point in making grand plans to incorporate purposeful movement if you still lose track of time and suddenly hours have gone by and you haven't moved a muscle. Using frameworks, such as the Pomodoro technique, takes the pressure off having to self-manage these breaks. 

Not familiar with the Pomodoro technique? Weirdly thinking about Pomodoro sauce and craving a pizza all of a sudden? You’re not entirely off track. The technique stems from setting a simple timer (in the shape of a tomato in the case of university student, Francesco Cirillo, who created the technique in the 1980s—hence the name) for multiple 25-minute intervals with structured breaks in between. After the first 25-minute interval take a 5-minute break to stand up and move your body. Repeat these 25-minute sessions and small breaks. After the fourth session, treat yourself to a longer 15 to 30-minute break to really stretch your legs and get away from your desk. 

If you don’t have a classic timer handy or don’t want to aggravate your co-workers with the alarm when your sessions are up, there’s a stack of apps available to guide you through the technique.  The Bear Focus Timer is one of our faves.

Get Away From Your Desk At Lunchtime

It sounds simple but setting boundaries around your lunch break can be hard to implement. Especially if you’re working from home and feel like you need to be accessible to your colleagues or clients at all times—or a looming deadline is keeping you glued to your desk. But a lunch break can be a crucial reset for your mind and body. Giving yourself time to refuel and get your blood flowing could ultimately improve your afternoon performance and, potentially, your overall health. 

Try to take a break at the same time every day, or utilise your internal comms platforms to let your colleagues know you’re on lunch. A simple sandwich emoji on your Teams or Slack status will let your colleagues know you’re away from your desk and can change your relationship with your lunch break—plus you might even subtly encourage others to do the same.  

Give Swimming, Pilates Or Yoga A Go

Once you’ve mastered your lunch break boundaries, incorporating purposeful exercise into your workdays becomes easier. Life can get pretty busy and your mornings and evenings can fill up pretty quickly with early commutes and evening catchups with friends (sitting strikes again as you enjoy a meal and drinks in good company). This is where a cheeky lunchtime workout can become the MVP of daily movement. If you’re working from home, online yoga or pilates tutorials are an easy and budget-friendly way to get away from your desk for a half-hour workout—give these simple yoga poses a go. Swimming is also a super refreshing way to get out of the home or office and hit the reset button with some quick laps at lunch.

Incorporate Standing Or Walking Meetings

We don’t know about you, but we often have our best ideas when we’re away from our screens and moving our bodies. A piece of recent research suggests that “those who participate in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to report being creative at their jobs than those who do not.” So, have a go at incorporating walking meetings, or selecting a cafe to meet at that has high tables or benches, where you can stand, to increase your movement and decrease your sedentary time during the working day. 

Invest In A Standing Desk

If your budget or workplace allows for an upgrade to a standing desk, this is a great option to mitigate the amount of sitting time in your day tenfold. You can alternate your sitting and standing throughout the day, or even incorporate your rotation with the Pomodoro technique, using the standing desk for one session and alternating to sitting for the next. If you really want to amp up your standing desk for maximum blood flow, you could invest in an under-desk treadmill so you can stroll as your work. 

Treat Yourself To A Remedial Massage

Even with your new toolkit to mitigate a stagnant day, working at a computer for forty hours a week can still leave you feeling a little sore. Booking a regular remedial massage could be a great way to support your new habits, and catch any niggly spots before they become full-blown pains. To really boost the feel-good effects, you can tailor your health insurance eligibility to receive benefits on remedial massages—with HBF Extras cover you can claim on remedial massages performed by approved providers, up to your annual limit. Great for your body and great for your budget!

Ready to invest in your wellbeing? We challenge you to get up from wherever you’re sitting right now and move your body. For more inspo on how to set your wellbeing up for success in the future, head over to The Well. 

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

This article is sponsored by HBF and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Urban List

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