How to Infuse Healthy Habits into Your Busy Work Day
By Janet Early
Does your job require you to sit for long periods of time each day? Perhaps you work 8 or 9 hours daily just as millions of Americans do. While it’s true that bills need to get paid (and organic veggies and grass-fed meats purchased), they shouldn’t at the expense of your health.
First, what’s the big hubbub about sitting for so long? Well, doing so on a consistent basis dramatically increases risk of disease.
A study conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center concluded that people who sit for the majority of the day are 54% more likely to suffer fatal heart attacks, while another study found that being sedentary for more than six hours a day increases one’s risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease and obesity by 18%.
The mere act of sitting is also believed to inhibit the circulation of the fat-absorbing enzyme, lipase. Add these detriments on top of muscle stiffness, joint aches and mental and physical sluggishness and you have a recipe for disease.
But we are here to help you! If you suffer from CSAW (Chronic Sitting At Work), here are 8 tips to incorporate healthy habits into your busy work schedule.
1. Take Breaks
Get up and move at least once per hour. Walk to the office kitchen for a cup of tea or shimmy over to a co-worker’s cubicle to chat in person rather than through email or instant messenger. Keep yourself hydrated with water, which will lead to more frequent bathroom breaks. Plus, scientific studies have shown that brief diversions from stretches of work actually improve focus once you return to the task. So, consider breaks to not only be investments in your health, but also in your productivity.
Every so often, show some love to that body of yours. Stand in your cubicle and stretch your legs, your arms, shrug those shoulders, touch those toes. Get those creaks out. Your brain directs the highest percentage of its attention to areas under the most stress, so if your body is taken care of, your mind can better concentrate on the projects at hand.
3. Exercise At Lunch
Something I do nearly every workday is take a midday walk along the neighborhood streets near my office building. When I re-enter the office 45 minutes later, I feel physically recharged, mentally refreshed and ready to work.
Whether it’s you and your iPod or you and a friend, try a walk this week. I bet you that, like mine, your co-workers will notice and feel encouraged to try out some lunch walks themselves.
Likewise, if your work has a company gym, take advantage of it! Check to see if light exercise options like yoga classes (because we don’t want to get all sweaty for the rest of the day) are available during the lunch hours.
4. Sitting Desk Alternatives
Standing desks, treadmill desks and core-stabilizing balls are growing trends among health-conscious employees throughout the country. These innovations can be expensive at the product level, but you can devise ways to work around this. For example, there are relatively simple ways to convert your desk into a standing one. In fact, a co-worker of mine who, after injuring his back while exercising, ingeniously propped up his monitor on a series of cardboard boxes to manufacture his own standing desk.
If you do use one of these sitting desk alternatives, take care to properly adjust your wrist alignment to coordinate with the keyboard height and balance your standing with periods of sitting to alleviate the stress on your joints and cardiovascular system. It’s all about balance!
5. Take The Stairs
This is an easy one! Besides, who wants to be stuck in an elevator in the case of an earthquake or fire? They’re straight up dangerous.
6. Work More Exercise Into Your Daily Routine
Just because you go to the gym three days a week after work doesn’t erase the harm caused by sitting all day long. In fact, the American Cancer Society found that the health benefits of daily exercise can be completely offset if you spend the rest of the day sitting. So, be conscious of actively infusing your day with light to moderate exercise. In addition to the other tips mentioned, try parking further away from the building, standing during a meeting or phone call, or doing squats during a bathroom break.
7. Exercise Before Work
This activity doesn’t have to be strenuous. Simply stretch out your body in the morning while you’re getting ready. Each morning, I purposely wake up ten minutes earlier to have time to engage in some light yoga. Do you ever see your dogs or cats when they first awaken? They usually do big, full-body stretches. Why? Because they feel good! This simple trick alone will give you more energy to start your day right.
8. Exercise After Work
Once you leave the office, hit the gym, take a hike, play with your kids. Whatever it may be, just move! Even running errands can help stimulate your blood flow after a long day of sitting.
You know that really healthy person at your office who is always in a good mood and keeps getting in better and better shape? That can be you (maybe it already is, woohoo)! Be that health trendsetter in your workplace. Because once people see those positive changes in your body composition and mood, they will take notice and ask you what your secret is.
Together, we can eradicate CSAW (Chronic Sitting At Work) Disorder.
Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
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