How does sedentary work affect human health?

sedentary work

The rapid evolution of technology, along with expansive digitalization, has greatly simplified many demanding and time-consuming tasks of everyday life, thus turning many jobs into the so-called “desk jobs”. In the modern labor market, more and more people are spending long hours in front of a computer, doing sedentary work. In addition, the unexpected advent of the pandemic and the subsequent application of teleworking to a wide range of professions has confined many workers to their homes, dramatically reducing any opportunity for physical activity and exercise. For sure, all these factors have brought about several significant facilitations, yet, at the same time, they have also reinforced a harmful condition: a sedentary lifestyle.

sedentary work
Sedentary work: Effects on human health

For many years, researchers have been studying the effects of both sedentary work and lack of physical activity on human health. Many of these have been widely proven and known for years:

Musculoskeletal diseases: Back and neck pain, muscle tightness or tension, stiffness in joints, swelling in limbs, etc. are just a few of the adverse effects that are in the spotlight.

Increased risk for diseases: It is widely known that sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, higher insulin resistance, changes in lipid profile, metabolic syndrome, etc.

Exacerbation and psychological effects of telecommuting: Telecommuting, which was extensively implemented during the pandemic period, was shown to exacerbate pre-existing problems, as several studies demonstrated that the fact that employees did not have to go to their workplaces consequently increased the overall hours of sedentary behavior. In addition, the lack, in many cases, of the appropriate work equipment -normally available in a workplace- was shown to have a detrimental effect, particularly on musculoskeletal disorders. Last but not least, the negative psychological effects that have arisen or worsened due to confinement are also of major importance.

Sedentary work: How to reverse the negative effects

The negative effects of sedentary work cannot always be avoided. However, many workers adopt a sedentary lifestyle even after their working hours. In modern life, the lack of physical activity may be a common phenomenon, yet it ought to be reversed. The secret to better health is to incorporate more movement into our lives, both at working and past working hours. Just by following a few small, daily steps, you can make your day more active and offset the negative effects of sedentary work. Try to:

  • Walk as much as you can, even if it is to get to or from work. If the distance is too long, try parking your transport a few meters away from your workplace. Walking is not only a great form of cardiovascular exercise, but it can significantly improve your mental and emotional health.
  • Take some time to exercise. You can do it at home, at the gym, or outdoors. Even brief, 15-minute sessions are beneficial.
  • Adapt your diet to your activities. Diet and exercise are the two main pillars of health. While your main goal should be to reduce your overall daily sedentary lifestyle, if you cannot change the levels of your activity, you should emphasize your diet by adopting healthy eating habits, such as basing your daily diet on fresh vegetables and fruits, consuming good sources of quality protein, tailoring your carbohydrate intake to your level of physical activity, and, of course, drinking plenty of water.

It is important to look after your body if you wish to be in good health. Even if you cannot change the conditions of your work, you can follow some simple steps – starting today -that will minimize the negative effects of sedentary work!

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