5 Tiny Habits You Can Add to Your Workday Routine for Better Health
As a busy professional who spends most of your days sitting, you're familiar with the sinking feeling of having to prioritise your work over your health. Even though you're probably well aware that long working hours and work-related stress can negatively impact both physical and mental health.
A study published in 2021 found that working over 10 hours per day for at least 50 days per year increased the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, by 29%. And the American Institute of Stress reported that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, which can lead to various mental and physical health issues.
Luckily, you don't necessarily need to completely overhaul your workday routine to improve your health, weight management and focus. Making small changes and incorporating tiny habits into your workday routine can significantly improve your physical and mental health and productivity.
Tiny habits are small changes that are easy to implement and maintain over time
It may seem insignificant, but like putting your money into an index fund, the tiny habits compound over time. The idea behind tiny habits is that they work by gradually changing your behaviour over time rather than relying on a mountain of willpower needed for drastic overhauls in lifestyle.
Small changes are easier for you to stick with since you're less likely to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by having too much change happening all at once.
By focusing on these tiny daily habits, you can slowly build better workday routines that will help improve and maintain your overall well-being in the long run.
1. Drink water throughout the day
Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and poor concentration, so staying on top of your water intake can help you stay focused throughout the day. The recommended amount of water per day varies based on age, gender, body weight, activity level, and climate. However, drinking at least 2 litres (64 ounces) of water daily is a good rule of thumb.
How to get started with the water habit:
Keep a water bottle at your desk where you can always see it. And stick a post-it note on the side of your screen as an extra reminder.
2. Practice deep breathing
Most of us tend to breathe shallowly or hold our breath when focused on what's happening on the screen. So much so that scientists have named this dysfunctional breathing screen apnea.
Chronic breath-holding, aka screen apnea, can be detrimental to your health, often leading to exhaustion and impacting your performance at work.
Deep breathing can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. It's an incredibly effective but underutilised habit for improving focus and overall health.
How to get started with the deep breathing habit: Set up an alarm to do a few cycles of box breathing every 30 to 60 minutes. Sit up straight and complete this breathing cycle:
- 4-second inhale
- 4-second pause
- 4-second exhale
- 4-second pause
Repeat this cycle 2-5 times before returning to your work tasks.
Pro tip: Download the Stretchminder app to remind and guide you through various deep breathing exercises.
3. Do desk exercises
Sitting at a desk for long periods can lead to muscle stiffness and tension, especially in the back, neck and shoulders. Incorporating stretches you can do at your desk is a low-hanging fruit for reducing the tension in these areas. Making it easier for you to focus on work that matters.
How to get started with the desk exercise habit: Set up an alarm to do these three desk exercises every hour:
1. Seated Shoulder Blade Squeezes: stretch the chest and wake up the upper back muscles.
2. Seated Thoracic Rotation to release the tension in the upper back.
3. Seated Leg Stretch to help relax the hamstrings.
4. Take regular movement breaks
In addition to desk exercises, taking regular movement breaks is a simple and effective way to boost your energy and reduce muscle tension. Research also shows that taking short movement breaks can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and weight gain due to sitting and boost cognitive and emotional abilities.
How to get started with regular movement breaks - set an hourly reminder to do these three exercises
1. Lateral Lunges to strengthen the legs and glutes while stretching the inner thighs.
2. Single Legged Romanian Deadlifts to stretch the hamstrings and calves and wake up the glutes.
3. Squat Jumps to work on the quads, hamstrings and calves. And as your heart rate elevates, you'll also boost your metabolism.
Pro tip: Alternate between desk-based exercises and movement breaks by doing desk-based exercises at 10 am, getting up for a movement break at 11 am and so on.
We also recommend doing this 3-minute movement break to years to your life.
5. Anti-eye-strain habits
Do you get eye fatigue, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain while staring at your screen? There's an actual name for it: digital eye strain, affecting up to 59% of people who spend their time looking at screens.
How to get started with anti-eye-strain habits: Use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at an object at least 6 meters (20 feet) away.
For an in-depth guide on how to reduce screen related eye strain, check out 7 Best Practices for Eye Strain If You Spend Most of the Day on a Computer.
The importance of consistency for improving your workday routine
Making a little space for these tiny habits can lead to a happier, healthier you. To reap the health and productivity benefits of these tiny habits, make them a part of your daily routine. Start small by incorporating one habit at a time, and gradually add more as you become more comfortable.
By making small changes to your workday routine, you can improve your physical and mental health and productivity without having to overhaul your day.
If you'd like extra help building those habits, we made StretchMinder for busy desk workers who want to improve their physical and mental health by reducing the damage of prolonged sitting. Download the app and get started on improving your workday routine today.