Have there ever been more employees sitting at their desks than there are today? Current reports put sedentary desk jobs at 70-80% of the total work force. Chances are, you’re one of them—and it’s affecting your health.
Weight gain and its resulting diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more, are all dangers of sitting too much at your job. Among administrative assistants, one of the most sedentary professions, 70% report gaining weight as a result of their job.
If you work at a desk and you don’t want to fall victim to rapidly-expanding waistlines thanks to your career choice, you’re in the right place. Read on for tips on how to stay healthy in spite of your sedentary desk job.
Tips For Staying Healthy With A Desk Job
Know That It Won’t Be Easy
Trust me, I know it’s hard to stay active when you have deadlines and a full inbox and a boss who is breathing down your neck to get more and more done in less and less time. I know. After all, I’m not dictating this article as I run, and I’m not writing it from a treadmill desk. I’m typing it out at my desk, sitting in a chair, and practically feeling my body give up bit by bit.
But it is possible to fight the weight gain and poor health that is so often associated with jobs like ours. We’ll have to go against the norm and maybe do some things that make people stare at us funny, but what’s a funny look in the face of a lifetime of sitting capped by an early death from a heart attack? That’s what I thought.
Don’t Try To Take On Too Much
I’m not going to ask you to work up a crazy sweat on your lunch break. Unless you have a shower at work—and time to use it—you’re not going to listen to me anyway. So with all the recommendations I have coming your way, keep in mind that you just need to do something. No one is asking you to run marathons between emails and meetings. Just get up every now and then.
But Do Consider Joining A Gym
The tips I’m giving you today are not going to help you lose weight if you need to, and they’re not going to replace the wonderful benefits of regular exercise. If you don’t exercise regularly, you should start. I know it seems like a chore, but find something you love and it will start to be something you look forward to for all the benefits, both physical and mental.
Conversely, if you do exercise at a gym—even if you work out faithfully, every single day—don’t think you can skip these tips! As soon as you sit, all the muscles of your legs, core, and rear end—capable of burning huge amounts of calories when they’re engaged—turn off. They basically say, “Well, I’m not needed here. I’m taking a nap.” And when you allow your muscles to nap for 8 hours a day, five days a week, for the rest of your career—well, you just can’t undo all that sitting with a couple hours at the gym every day.
8 Tips For Staying Healthy When You Work At A Desk
So, with those caveats, here are my best tips for maintaining your health and fitness without ditching your desk job and becoming a lumberjack.
1. Take Activity Breaks
I’m not talking jumping jacks or burpees, although if you want to do those, I’d never discourage you. Just getting up and walking to the water cooler or the bathroom is good.
2. Set A Timer
Use your phone, your calendar app, or tell your kids to call you every 20 minutes. Yes, every 20 minutes. When the alarm goes off or the phone rings, get up and take one of those activity breaks.
3. Eat Lunch At Your Desk
Now, this is not an excuse to squeeze more work into the day. If you eat at your desk—something easy like a sandwich and soup from a mug—you still have to take your break. We’re not trying to burn you out. Use your break to take a walk. Take some co-workers with you. Spread the health.
4. Work Standing Up
There are lots of standing-desk options out there. Some of them are super pricey, some of them include treadmills (please tell me you saw that episode of NCIS LA where Deeks got a treadmill desk and started espousing the dangers of a sedentary job??) and some of them are hydraulic so you can sit or stand.
My suggestion? Hack a simple platform to rest your laptop or monitor/keyboard setup on top of your existing desk. Check out Google Image gallery of do-it-yourself standing desks. Yeah, people might look at you funny, but you’ll have a cuter tush than them.
5. Gamification, Baby
We’re all basically kindergartners with sticker charts, and when we track our progress, we do better. So get something to help you chart how often you’re active. Use a pedometer, one of the cool new fitness tracker gadgets on the market, or even a for-real sticker chart. You can keep it private, but if you’re hoping to inspire your co-workers to healthy habits, post that info up on the wall for everyone to see. You could even make bets or come up with simple prizes for the most active people in your office.
6. Build Health Into The Company Culture
You’ll want to get with your boss on this one. Replace the office donuts with office apples. Commit the company to regular physical events like charity walks or obstacle races. These have the added benefit of helping good causes and team-building. And if your group commits to something that’s a little out of their comfort zone, fitness-wise, you can plan weekly group training sessions.
7. Dress For Success
In casual offices you can wear comfortable clothes that make it easy to head out for a quick walk up and down the street. In more professional atmospheres you’ll need to bring clothes and sneakers to change into. Keep a gym bag in your car…and bring some deodorant and baby wipes. You may not be dripping from sweat after your Tip # 3 lunch break walk, but you could at least freshen up.
8. Office Challenge!
OK, this is where the strange stares might come in. This won’t fly in every office. I get that. But if you can swing it, you could have a great way to squeeze in some exercise…and laugh some, too. Maybe get a few company tweets out of it.
Challenge your office mates to weekly competitions: longest plank, most sit-ups in a minute, who can do the most burpees before puking (I’m kidding on that one—puking at work is a bad career move).
If you work at a desk all day, pick just one of these tips to implement this month. Work your way through the list, keeping what works and tossing what doesn’t.
When you’ve got a good thing going at the office, drop us a line and tell us your thoughts!
About the author: Kimberly Paine is a fitness instructor, mom, and writer. She writes the health and wellness blog for HyperVibe, a whole body vibration company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives. You can read more from her at http://au.hypervibe.com/blog.
Photo: Éole Wind