Is your desk job damaging your health?

What life behind a desk is doing to our bodies

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After a long hot summer and hours spent at our desks working hard on every issue of TOAD, we’ve noticed something a little worrying has started to occur. To put it politely, we are developing what could only be described as a ‘desk derriere’.

But while investigating this phenomenon we discovered this relatively cosmetic predicament is only the tip of the iceberg; as long hours at work sat at a desk all day have far more significant health implications.

According to a recent study by the Regus Work-Life Balance Index, 57 percent of UAE residents questioned believed they spend too much time at work and away from family life, significantly higher than the global average of 39 percent. Another report suggests this is directly attributed to the financial crisis several years ago, when many employees responded by taking on additional duties, which today still haven’t been reallocated.

The risks
If you spend every day sitting at a desk, a growing posterior should actually be the least of your worries. Just this year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study finding those who work a sedentary job have almost twice the risk of a specific type of colon cancer. It also significantly increases your risk of type-two diabetes, increases risk of death from heart disease and respiratory ailments, osteoporosis and the very obvious obesity.

What makes it worse is the fact that once this damage is done, experts say, much like smoking, it can’t be undone. The knock-on effects are also pretty nasty. Poor diet is associated with boredom eating and fast foods which are so often munched on in the office. Sitting for long periods also slows the metabolism and encourages general ill-health, making office workers more prone to illness and disease. With the aim of bringing you some do-able solutions TOAD met with the trainers and dancers from Fit Studio Abu Dhabi, to get their tips for reducing risks and maintaining fitness, even if you do spend the vast majority of your time in front of a screen.

Solutions
Try to use every opportunity to get up and get moving during any breaks you have. Walk to the water machine, take the stairs, park your car in the furthest parking spot from the office: every little bit of activity helps. If you have a lunch hour, walk or consider some studio lunch workout plans such as Fit’s sessions.

Why not try creating a 15 minute power group, where you all motivate each other to do a small batch of exercises such as squats, sit-ups, push-ups and more. Keep a workout kit in the office, so if you get a chance you can head for a walk or run now it’s getting cooler outside.

If none of these are realistic options for you, don’t despair; there are exercises you can do even in your chair. Try contracting your core, gluteus muscles and hamstrings for 20-minute rounds two or three times a day in a ten-seconds-on-20-seconds-off routine. And remember to avoid crossing your legs, which only exacerbates problems further.

In many ways the glutes are a really good indicator to a sedentary life. As they lose tone and fat develops you can be sure the lack of exercise is affecting you in other ways too. Our glutes work hard, they directly affect our lower backs and hamstrings: if they lose tone other muscles step in to compensate and often this affects the back causing back pain.

Tighten the glutes and you create a more evenly balanced body.

Try core tightening exercises whilst sitting and forcibly contracting muscles whilst at your desk, or active movements such as squats, lunges, bridge or plank exercises can all be easily be incorporated into
a simple daily program.

Also, try and stay away from processed fast food. Try ready-made salads on the go or packing a lunch from home. Incorporate small, regular meals to kick start a sluggish metabolism and always remember to keep hydrated with lots of water. Your body will be thanking you in no time.
Fit Studio classes are Dhs50 each. Al Mamoura B, Muroor Rd (next to Jones the Grocer) www.fitstudio.ae (02 445 3395).

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