IT workers: How that desk job wears your body down

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Another unpleasant side effect of obesity, especially as it relates to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, is testosterone deficiency, which can lead to erectile dysfunction and lowered libido, according to reports from endocrinologists.

Legs

If you're stuck behind a desk all day, the lack of exercise over time can lead to loss of muscle mass, and losing muscle mass decreases a person's ability to keep weight off, NSMC's Waldman says. "When it comes to muscle mass, if you don't use it, you lose it," he says, "and muscle is far more effective at metabolizing calories than fat."

Just as cardiovascular disease, brought on by poor diet and insufficient exercise, can affect the arteries around the heart, so too can it affect blood flow to extremities such as the legs. Office workers with a poor diet and insufficient exercise can over time develop peripheral vascular disease, a serious condition that affects some 8 million Americans and can lead to a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

For healthy adults aged 18-65, about 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity five days of the week can protect your heart and consequently help stave off lower-extremity diseases, according to the latest guidelines (PDF) issued jointly by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Age, gender and genetics are outside your control, but lifestyle and eating habits are well within your purview to change. With a few well-chosen modifications, which don't even need to be extreme, you can alter your health profile.

Physicians like Waldman say it's imperative for IT workers and other deskbound professionals to take the time to pay at least some attention to diet and exercise and their physical workstation setup in the office.

Making small changes -- cutting back on red meat, reducing portion size or taking regular, 10-minute exercise and stretching breaks -- can be just as effective over time as radical changes like taking up running or abruptly switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The trick, the experts say, is to make changes that will stick. (See "Five easy changes for better health now" for suggestions.)

Mentally, you need to find a way to respect your body's limitations as well as its strengths. "If you're asking a lot from your mind and body, you must be prepared to properly nourish it too," notes Robin Foroutan, a nutritionist and holistic health counselor certified by the Institute for Integrated Nutrition in New York. "That means downtime, exercise, stress release, quality time with friends and loved ones, adequate sleep and healthy foods."

Beth Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

This story, "IT workers: How that desk job wears your body down" was originally published by Computerworld.

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