The workplace is not normally what comes to mind when you think of exercise. For the most part, work isn’t even a place that makes you think about being healthy at all. I think that this is a stigma that can be addressed and worked around. No, I don’t think that we can be doing pushups at work, but work can be a health-minded environment that works supplementary to your fitness goals.
First and foremost, health is largely based on what we put in our bodies. Work is not the most adaptable environment, but it can be manipulated to work for you. Just because you’re not at home, doesn’t mean you can’t keep up your nutrition. Planning is the most crucial part of eating right at work. Every eventuality can be anticipated and prepared for.
You know you’re going to eat lunch, so bring your lunch. Cook the healthiest most delicious food that can be reheated or survive in a refrigerator. Do this ahead on the weekend, or a night you have extra time. Put the food in a safe, airtight container and don’t forget to bring utensils. If you require a sauce or dressing, there are small accessory containers that be packed as well. These lunches can literally be anything. Meet your needs; just make it ahead of time.
You know you’re going to eat a snack or get hungry sometime other than lunch. Pack a healthy, filling snack that sounds good to you. These snacks should be good for you though since these are the snacks you have control over. It’s important to use these when you get hungry, instead of searching for a vending machine snack. Knowing what you are eating and planning to eat healthy takes out the guesswork. If you’ve eaten healthy all day, and you have the snacks already in hand to continue to do so, then why break the streak or spend unnecessary money? I suggest packing at least one extra snack aside from the ones you know that you’ll need, just in case. These pre-planned snacks can also help when someone else has a really good looking, but off your diet treat, like when someone brings doughnuts to work. If you don’t want to be rude, you can always take a half donut, then eat your healthy snack first to help you feel satisfied before the half doughnut. If you get hungry otherwise, you can always turn to one of these healthier, portioned out, more filling options; limiting the damage done.
Another major problem at work is that many of us are usually seated for the majority of it. Close to 8 hours in any one position isn’t good for the body. The key to overcoming this challenge is just to move. One tip I suggest is getting up out of our chair and standing up for 1 minute every fifteen minutes. This gets you moving, engages your muscles to stand, and helps stimulate blood flow throughout the body. This will also help burn more calories and wake you up.
There are a few options to burn more calories at your desk. Using the standing up principle, you could stand up and sit down repeatedly. By getting up from your chair ten times in a row, for example, you will increase or heart rate and tax your muscles. This can help kick start your metabolism, and help add to your overall calories burned. Another option would be to stand on one foot at a time at your desk. By engaging your core and leg muscles to hold your position, you will burn calories while improving your balance. This can be taken a step farther, by raising and lowering one leg in a controlled fashion from toes touching the ground to thigh parallel to the ground. This will provide similar benefits to standing on one leg; improving balance and burning calories.
A crucial time for getting exercise is when you get a break from being at your desk. Anything from lunch to a bathroom break is the perfect time to get some extra steps in. If it’s a bathroom break or a trip to the printer, take a long way there or back. This extra walk is movement you won’t get in during your day otherwise. This only adds a minute to your trip, but the benefits will build up over time. During the lunch hour, you can find somewhere to walk to after you eat. This will give you time to digest your food, not feel sleepy and resist going for more food. I suggest timing your walk so that you can calculate your progress, and so you can make sure you have enough time to go on the walk after you heat your food and eat. This can be anything from 5 to 20 minutes; as long as you stick to it. This walk will motivate your metabolism, wake you up and increase your heart rate. If it’s raining, you can always walk around the office or lobby. Again this doesn’t have to be every day, but the more of a routine you develop the more health benefits and progress you will see.
My final suggestion is probably the best way to burn calories at the office. It’s not for everyone though, and you need to honestly judge whether this option is for you. Walking up the stairs is a challenge that will test you, depending on your fitness level, and/or how many flights you take. If you want an extra burn, whether it’s on lunch or coming to and leaving work, the stairs are the top tier. They engage your legs, glutes, and abs. Depending on your fitness level, you can also carefully take them without using the railing to challenge your balance. Stairs can also be taken two at a time, for further engagement of your leg muscles. Once you’ve determined stairs are safe for you, I recommend taking them at least three times a week. This will throw a challenge in, surprising your body with the extra effort it has to exert a few random times. The stairs are also a good gauge of your fitness level. By paying attention to when you get tired or start breathing heavily, you can assess your current fitness level compared to previously.
Being healthy and trying to stay fit takes time and effort. We spend 40 hours a week at work, and plenty more driving back and forth every day. That’s a lot of time to lose out on staying focused on our goals. It’s hard enough to get in workouts and proper meals outside of work. I think by planning ahead and making the best of every situation, we can compensate for our busy schedules. If we can make a few little changes, we should see a few positive results in ourselves. Eating better, and getting a little more physical activity every day, will make you feel better overall. We have to be at work anyway, so why not make the most of. Plus, it’s almost like you’re getting paid to stay healthy.