Risky Business

A head-to-toe look at how sitting at your desk can harm your health

When it comes to dangerous jobs, loggers, fishermen and pilots top the list. But your desk job could be harming your health, too.

Sedentary jobs have soared 83 percent since 1950. And Americans now work an average of 47 hours a week. For most of us, that means sitting, sitting and more sitting.

Confront the constraints of your cubicle by standing when talking on the phone, scheduling “walking meetings” and setting an alarm every hour to remind you to stretch.

In the meantime, keep in mind these dangers of desk jobs:

An eyesore: Fifty to 90 percent of computer users complain about eye problems. To avoid eyestrain, use proper lighting (avoiding excessively bright or overhead fluorescent lights), minimize glare and use an LCD monitor.

A pain in the neck: Slumping forward toward a computer monitor or cradling a phone can lead to sore muscles, pinched nerves and stress on your neck. A study among sedentary workers showed that a sit-stand workstation reduced upper back and neck pain by 54 percent.

A hardened heart: Sitting at work all day—not to mention during your commute, dinner and favorite TV shows—increases just about every major risk for heart attack, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

An aching back: Office employees are more likely to have chronic back pain than those with physically demanding jobs. Make sure your chair reinforces the natural curve of your spine with lumbar support. And try sitting on a stability ball. Even 30 minutes on the ball daily can help strengthen your core.

A minimized gluteus: Sitting all day weakens your body’s butt muscles, the glutes . This means the biggest muscle group in your body is no longer as good at doing what it does best—burning fat. And that means, well, a bigger butt.

Lethargic legs: Sitting for long stretches slows blood circulation, which can lead to swollen ankles, varicose veins and a serious condition called deep
 

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