Tell me about... Doing easy exercises at the office


Wouldn’t it be great if you could exercise and work at your desk at the same time? Photo: TNS

I recently read that sitting at my office desk for eight hours a day is very bad. Is this true?

Yes, it’s true. It was long assumed that blue collar jobs like working in a factory or construction site are more hazardous because of the injuries you can get while using machinery or just by falling off a scaffold.

But actually, working in an office can be just as detrimental.

This is because of the sedentary nature of office jobs, which can require you to sit and sit and sit for hours every day.

Top it off with the stress of deadlines and the long hours of staring at a computer screen, and you can have a whole different host of medical problems.

What medical problems can I face if I work in an office? I do work in an office, and my job requires me to be in front of a computer screen for literally eight hours a day, or more.

Research has proven that sitting for a long time is associated with poor health outcomes, regardless of how much you exercise when you get home.

If you sit or type in an unhealthy way, you can put strain on your body. This strain can be repeated if you keep doing this wrong for the entire week, and then the entire month, and years on end.

The American Chiropractic Association says that back pain is one of the most common reasons why employees miss work.

One way to achieve better posture while sitting down is the right chair. The employer needs to provide chairs with better ergonomics.

What if my employer doesn’t care? The chairs we get at the office are the usual ones.

It is true that many employers have no idea about ergonomics at the office. But you yourself can be vigilant.

If you are sitting in front of a computer, your body should be positioned centrally to the monitor and keyboard. You should be sitting up straight with the soles of your feet resting on the floor.

You should adjust your chair to make it so. If the chair is too high, you should use a footrest. Your sitting position should involve your thighs being horizontal with your knees being level with your hips.

That’s just your lower body. What about your upper body?

Your forearms should also be level or tilted up slightly. When you type, make sure that your wrists are straight and not curved.

You should not sit cross-legged, or hunch, or slouch. You should also not cradle your phone between your head and your shoulder when you type because this will put a strain on your muscles.

Be aware that repeated typing in the wrong position can cause pain and wrist injuries, as well as stress fractures.

Is staring at the computer screen for long periods of time bad for my eyes?

Definitely! Computers are a necessary evil. Screen glare is a major cause of eye strain. But there are ways that you can reduce the stress.

The computer monitor should be positioned directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. The top of the screen should be just below eye level.

To avoid eye strain, your monitor screen should be adjusted so that its brightness and contrast suit the room’s lighting. Nothing should be too bright.

To reduce screen glare, make sure that monitors are not positioned opposite windows. If this is not possible, then use shades or blinds to reduce the amount of light that fall on a monitor.

If a font size is too small, make it larger or zoom into the page.

A very important tip is to take regular breaks from the computer. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommend that everyone should take a 10-minute break for every hour spent at the computer screen.

This will not only reduce eye strain, but it gets you out of your chair and that prolonged sitting position.

Go to the toilet. Go get something to drink at the water cooler. Go talk to your colleagues instead of phoning them or typing instant messages to them.

This will allow your body to recover and avoid strain.

I have no time whatsoever to exercise or go to the gym. I have to pick up my kids from the babysitter’s when I get off work. Then I have to bring them home and cook. What should I do?

This is true for a lot of office workers. However, there are some exercises you can do when you are sitting at your desk or standing.

Google “exercises you can do at your desk” for instructions.

You can also try to get more exercise in. Instead of driving or taking a taxi, you can walk to use public transportation, for instance. Or you can ride a bicycle. Walking to the LRT station from your house and back can burn an extra 240 calories a day.

You can even park your car further away and walk.

At the office, instead of taking the lift, you can walk up or down the stairs.

Stand at work as much as possible instead of sitting. During break time, go for a short walk instead of smoking!


Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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