We have lots of ways to protect ourselves from all kinds of health problems. Seat belts, helmets, pads, X-rays, and even different kinds of insurance play a role in prolonging our lives and keeping us happy and healthy. However, sometimes your doctor or your insurance provider can’t do anything about your health because you job makes you chronically unhealthy.

We all need jobs to support ourselves. If we want to own homes and cars or take exotic trips to the Caribbean, income is necessary. But if you have a desk job, you’ll have a source of a little more than just income-you’ll have a source of excess weight.

How Your Desk Job Ruins Your Health

A consistent, thorough exercise regimen can’t protect you from your desk chair. Studies have shown that sitting at a desk job for hours every day (regardless of how much you exercise) dramatically degrades your health and shortens your life in addition to making you fat. Here’s why:

Physical Weakness

1. When you sit for long time periods, the muscles around your hips go unused, decreasing your ability to balance.

2. Walking, jumping, climbing, hiking, and all kinds of physical activities help you grow strong, healthy bones. But if you don’t use your bones for anything other than sitting, they become weak and easier to break.

3. You’ll develop a stiff, weak back because you don’t give the discs between your vertebrae a chance to move.

4. Your mental capacity will also deteriorate if you have a desk job. Movement helps your heart push oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and that capability slows the more you sit.

Diseases and Conditions

1. Long periods of inactivity increase the risk of blood clots in your legs, which can travel to your brain and cause a stroke.

2. Long periods of sitting in the same position also increase hypertension, or high-blood pressure, which restricts oxygen to all parts of your body, weakening your immune system and the health of every party of your body. Your physical strength will deteriorate.

3. Inactivity also shuts down the fat-burning enzymes in your belly, making you gain weight rapidly.

4. Fluid collects in your legs when you don’t move around, and that fluid travels into your upper body when you sleep, leading to sleep apnea and other potentially dangerous conditions.

5. If you don’t move around, you stop burning fat and your blood moves less quickly, leading to clogs around your heart. You could develop cardiovascular disease.

6. When your muscles stay idle, your pancreas thinks it’s not producing enough insulin, so it makes more, increasing your risk for diabetes.

7. Little or no movement also stops your body from circulating antioxidants all the way through your body. If you have hypertension, you can’t get nutrients to as many of your cells, and if you can’t get antioxidants to your cells, you increase your risk for all kinds of cancers.

What You Can Do

If you work a desk job, you don’t have to let it control your future health. You can try the following strategies to boost your health while you’re at work.

1. Use an exercise ball. A giant, blow-up exercise ball forces you to not only sit with correct posture, but use your back and abdominal muscles to stay upright. For the full effect, sit up straight, put a good quarter of your weight on your feet, and keep your feet flat on the floor.

2. Stretch out your hips, knees, back, shoulders, wrists, and neck. You want to keep your body strong and limber, so you need to stretch all of these areas at least once a day. You should do it after work if you only do it once, but you’ll benefit more if you do it two or three times a shift. You should also try doing yoga poses at least once a day.

3. Get up and walk around. Stuck on one of your task? Get up and walk while you try to find a solution. You should get up and walk around during your breaks as well.

4. Work while standing. If you can, try standing for 15 or 20 minutes every hour. This helps you burn fat and retain the strength in the rest of your body.

5. Get regular, vigorous exercise. Make sure you get 30 minutes of exercise every day. It’ll counteract some of the time you spend sitting, but not all of it.

6. Eat healthy foods. Working in an office often encourages people to eat fatty and sugary foods. Eat natural, healthy foods instead, especially more vegetables, fruits, and protein instead of carbohydrates. Additionally, keep track of the calories you eat.

If you follow these tips, you’ll not only beat the desk job bulge, but you’ll live a longer and healthier life as well. Call your healthcare or insurance provider for more tips for a healthy life you’ll be happy you did.