Working from home: Step away from your desk

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Lack of exercise invites heart disease, diabetes and other problems.

Think about ways to do less sitting while working at home.

Make choices to take breaks to refresh your mind and find support.

Working from home while we shelter in place has its perks: no commute, you're allowed to wear pajama bottoms all day, and you get to share your workspace with your furry companion. But it also has a lot of drawbacks. For one, there isn't a separation between work and home, which means you can find yourself sitting in front of your computer for longer hours without taking breaks. 

Sure, you’ve given a good day’s work to your employer, but you haven’t done enough for yourself. You’ve spent unbroken hours hunched over your screen, barely pausing for bathroom breaks, taking time out to eat a healthy meal, or speaking to another human being.

If this happens to you repeatedly, you’re inviting a range of health problems, including heart disease, musculoskeletal strain, obesity, hypertension and what researchers call “psychosocial disorders.” 

You need to pace yourself, taking breaks during the workday for physical activity and to eat a healthy meal.

Your activity goals

Start with the physical activity. Health care experts recommend that adults ages 18 to 64 get 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate intensity per week, along with muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. (Alternatively, guidelines say an adult can get 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, and two days of muscle strengthening work.)

That may not sound like very much exercise, but 80 percent of American adults don’t get enough physical activity through the week

It’s not just the lack of exercise that invites diabetes, heart disease and other problems, but it’s the absolute inertia of sitting all day.

Start thinking about ways to do less sitting. You don’t have to set unrealistic goals for yourself — not everyone has room to exercise in their home. Instead, find small, simple ways to include more movement into your schedule, which could involve anything from taking a two-minute stretch break every 30 minutes to standing up for 10 minutes every hour, to walking around the block. 

You’ve got to eat right, too

You've heard it a million times: Eating junk food is not a way for you to get the nutrition you need to maintain a healthy weight. But did you know it can also dull your concentration? 

As the British Heart Foundation puts it: “Without regular well-balanced meals or enough water, employees may suffer from headaches, feel sluggish or have difficulty concentrating.” It’s also a recipe that invites chronic disease. 

Work from home stress

While demanding jobs require concentration and prolonged effort, they can create unhealthy levels of stress, even when working from home. “Work-related psychological disorders appear to be a rapidly developing problem,” according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which has proposed a coordinated national strategy to combat the problem.

Not all work stresses can be alleviated, but  you can make choices to take breaks to refresh your mind, and find social and psychological support by reaching out to colleagues online or by phone. 

Evaluate your working life and ask yourself if you’re doing the things you can to keep yourself healthy and mentally balanced while we get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we get to the other side of this, talk to your health care provider about ways you can improve your nutrition and increase physical activity if you think you could be doing more to stay healthy through life. 

You can find a Providence provider near you in our online directory.

If you feel unwell and would like to consult your doctor, consider using telemedicine options. Providence Express Care Virtual connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory to search for one in your area.


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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