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How to Stay Healthy When You Sit at a Desk All Day

woman sitting at desk and has pain in the back
Lisa S./Shutterstock

Sitting at a desk all day can be detrimental to your health. But don’t worry; there’s no need to quit your day job to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Here are some easy solutions for making things better.

Eat Healthily

This goes without saying—you’ll be healthier if you eat better. But how do you make this a priority when you’re facing a full day of meetings, deadlines, and endless to-do lists?

  • Eat a nutritious breakfast: This will give you adequate fuel to jumpstart your day.
  • Pack a lunch the night before: Resist the temptation of restaurants. If you commit to bringing your own food, you’ll be on the right track to staying healthy (plus, it’ll save you money).
  • Eat smaller meals: Having several dedicated snack breaks throughout the day will help keep blood sugar levels stable. Avoid the lure of a quick pick-me-up, such as a candy bar from the vending machine or a birthday cupcake from your colleague. Even though a sudden rush of sugar will feel like a turbo boost, it can lead to a crash later on. Having a bowl of nuts on your desk will help curb any intense hunger attacks.
  • Meal plan: If you come up with a detailed plan, you’re more likely to stick to it. Either write out healthy meal options for the week or use a meal planning app to create a solid menu. Don’t just wing it—that often leads to grabbing take-out on the way home.

Drink Lots of Water

Staying hydrated isn’t just for athletes; it’s key to staying on top of your mental game. Dehydration can cause sleepiness, muscle cramps, and headaches. Bring your water bottle and take regular breaks to fill it up. Make sure you’re getting the recommended daily dose of 64 ounces a day (having a water bottle with measure lines will help!).

Take Hourly Breaks

Schedule a timer on your laptop or phone to alert you when an hour is up. Take this time to go to the bathroom, fill up your water bottle, look out the window, stretch, and walk (or run!) up a flight of stairs. Even just a few minutes of movement will help break up the monotony of sitting at your desk all day long.

Get Adequate Sleep

We often skimp on sleep when we’re facing a big deadline or are behind on tasks. But having a good night’s sleep will give you more clarity and focus, thus making you more productive. Most adults need between 7-9 hours a night. Consider setting the alarm on your phone to notify you when it’s time to get ready for bed.

Exercise Daily

Young people talking and smiling while working out on bike at gym
Rido/Shutterstock

You don’t have to hit the gym every day to get in some basic fitness (although you should schedule it a few times a week). Here are a few tricks to incorporating movement into your daily routine.

  • Reorganize your office: Move important items out of reach. This will force you to stand up whenever you need to use the printer, grab a stapler, or file something away.
  • Exercise right at your desk: Use your breaks to do ten push-ups, jumping jacks, or a long, peaceful downward dog. Keep hand weights nearby, and do a few reps while waiting for a document to load. If your colleagues stare at you, invite them to join in.
  • Avoid elevators and escalators: Use stairs whenever possible.
  • Eat lunch outside of the office: Go somewhere that allows you to walk a good 10-15 minutes outside. Trust us; the fresh air will revitalize you.
  • Ditch your car: Bike or walk to work if possible. If you travel by bus, consider getting off at an earlier stop and walking the rest of the way.
  • After work activities: Try to do something active at the end of each day, whether it’s joining your work’s sports team, hitting the gym, washing the car at home, or pushing your child in the stroller around the block. Once you settle in at home, it’s much harder to find the motivation to exercise.

Get a Smartwatch

If you want to go fancy, invest in a smartwatch to record your daily movement, heart rate patterns, and sleep quality. Your watch can even notify you when you’ve been inactive for a certain period. It’s a great way to achieve your daily activity goals.

Maintain Good Posture

Sitting tall and straight will go a long way, helping reduce neck tension, headaches, sore backs, and more. Make sure the top of your computer screen is level with your eyes, shoulders are pulled back and relaxed, and your forearms are parallel to the ground. Avoid reaching for the keyboard or leaning into your screen.

Work Standing Up

A man is working at a stand up desk in an office
Mike Focus/Shutterstock

This Forbes article shows that productivity goes up when employees work from treadmill desks. You can also hold meetings on the go, walking around the office or outside. Fresh air can spark creativity, generating more ideas than sitting in a stuffy office. If a colleague is within walking distance, strike up communication in person as opposed to email or phone. 

If you can make it happen, a standing desk can be a good solution, too.

Meditate

If you’re struggling to embrace stillness, consider downloading a meditation app. A quick mental break might seem like a luxury you can’t afford, but it’ll put you in the right state of mind, helping you tackle whatever project is next.


Working in an office can be exhausting and stressful, but there’s no reason to let it get in the way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Keep on top of these healthy habits, take regular breaks to exercise, and you’ll start noticing a difference in your overall productivity.

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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