Sitting behind a desk for 8+ hours a day can be taxing on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The good news is: there are a few things you can do in order to break up your day and help you take small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I could have written a dissertation on ways to keep you happy and healthy at work, but I decided that 5 simple tips would be a little more reasonable. Put these 5 simple tips to work, and you can help increase your productivity at work, reduce your stress, and keep your body healthy!
1. Drink water! I think we all know the many benefits of drinking water, so I wont bother listing them here. What we need help with is a strategy to keep the H2O flowing throughout the day! Bring your favorite cup, water bottle, Tervis Tumbler, etc to the office and keep it filled with ice cold water. When you have water readily available, you will be more likely to drink it. We’ve had many clients arrive for their evening training session saying, “This is the first glass of water I’ve had all day!” It’s time to change that habit and stay hydrated while at the office! General rule of thumb for how much to drink: divide your weight (in lbs) by two, and drink that many ounces per day. Example: I weigh 160 lbs. 160/2=80 ounces of water per day. Drink up!
2. Save time for snack time. Taking a few minutes to eat a mid-morning or late-afternoon snack can help keep your blood sugar level, and can also reduce over-eating at your next meal. Some of my favorite quick snack ideas include: cut up veggies and fruits, rolled up lunch meat, KIND bars, a small handful of nuts, tuna and whole wheat crackers (or the grain-free option of cucumber slices-yum!). Some of my clients have also shared with me that they enjoy Greek yogurt as a mid-morning snack. A snack that contains protein is more likely to satisfy your hunger pains until it is time for your next meal. Snacks like fresh fruits/veggies/meats require some preparation and thought, as you cannot simply leave them in your desk for days. Keeping nutritious snack bars and desk-friendly protein, such as tuna, stored in your drawer can be a lifesaver when it’s been a crazy week and you didn’t have the time to plan ahead.
3. Take the time to eat lunch everyday. We’ve all had those days where we get sucked into a project and simply forget to eat. There are also those days where your boss has given you so many tasks that you feel you must skip lunch in order to get everything done. Don’t let this be an excuse! If you typically suffer from case number 1 (the “Oops…forgot to eat today!” case), then set a timer on your phone to make yourself stop working and eat lunch. We would ideally consume our food in no less than 20-30 minutes for proper digestion, but if all you can do is scarf down a salad or sandwich, that will be better than nothing at all. If case number 2 describes your situation, (argh…too…much…work…can’t…eat…), then I suggest planning a lunch that will be both easy to consume and as tidy as possible (so you don’t spill on your papers). I highly recommend making a smoothie that contains fruits and veggies and either whey protein powder, or some type of protein on the side so you get those proteins to keep you full and functioning! A wrap or sandwich that you can handle with one hand might work for you as well.
4. Take frequent breaks from sitting, and keep yourself moving all day. Taking a break from sitting every hour is ideal, but can sometimes be challenging. I have a few suggestions that may help you sneak in some extra steps: Need to talk to a coworker down the hall? Walk to their office instead of picking up the phone to call. After sitting for an hour, take a few seconds to stand up and sit back down in your chair without holding onto the armrest 10-15 times (you can hold on lightly if you have a chair on wheels!). This will get your blood pumping throughout your body and help your brain to function better. Every hour, stand up and either march in place or take a walk down the hall and back to get your blood flowing. To get more steps in throughout the day, park farther away and walk to the office. You could also find a coworker who is interested in walking during your lunch break or coffee break to get some exercise. Here’s another one: walk up the stairs instead of taking an elevator. Work on the 57th floor? Take the elevator to the 55th floor or lower, and walk a couple of flights of stairs. You can do it!
5. Stretch it out. We lose about 1% of flexibility each year, and sitting only exacerbates this issue! Here are a few very gentle and simple stretches you can do at your desk. The first stretch is for your neck and shouldn’t be done if you have any neck issues or injuries (such as a bulging/herniated disc in your cervical spine). Slowly look left, right, up, and down, then tilt your head side to side (bringing your ear down toward your shoulder) to stretch out your neck. Repeat this 3 times. Now, sit up tall, open your arms out to the side of your chair and reach your arms back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold this stretch for about 5 seconds and repeat 3 times. You should feel your upper back muscles working and you should also feel a stretch in your chest and the front of your shoulders. While seated, stretch your hamstrings by extending one leg out in front of you and gently reach toward your toe. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds per leg. These won’t take much time at all, but doing them 2-3 times per day can make a huge difference in your comfort level at your desk.
As I mentioned before, there are countless tactics to help keep you moving and thriving at work. If you feel there is another area where you are struggling, don’t hesitate to ask your trainer for some tips and suggestions. I challenge you this month to adopt just one of these behavior changes, and tell us how it goes!
Here’s to a healthier and happier you!