I spend at least 50 hours of my week at work each week. About one-third of my life is spent sitting at a desk for at least ten hours a day. Add to that the time I spend writing, studying, and researching, and that percentage goes up to nearly 50%.
Half of my life is spent sitting. It’s no wonder I look like this halfway through the work week:
How many of you can say the same?
The global shift in blue-collar or physically intensive work from developed nations such as the United States to underdeveloped nations has led to a significant change in the types of work Americans are performing each day. Technology and the internet have eased the way by redefining the way tasks are executed. Our movement becomes limited since everything is accessible at our fingertips; phones, computers, fax machines, copiers, printers.
How does this affect our health?
Researchers have taken note of this trend and are analyzing its role in the current obesity epidemic that continues to spike. In a 2011 study performed by Timothy S. Church and Corby K. Martin from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana State University , the last fifty years of labor force history has seen a decline in caloric expenditure compared to previous generations due to changes in occupation-related physical activity:
In the early 1960’s almost half the jobs in private industry in the U.S. required at least moderate intensity physical activity whereas now less than 20% demand this level of energy expenditure. Since 1960 the estimated mean daily energy expenditure due to work related physical activity has dropped by more than 100 calories in both women and men. ¹
Aside from moving less, we’re also eating more.
As we’ve become less active in the last fifty years, we’ve also started eating more foods, especially those that are highly processed and laden with fat, sugar, and salt. The accessibility of cheap snack foods and fast foods only exacerbates the slowdown of our metabolism brought on by prolonged sitting and immobility. ²
Pinning down one cause for the obesity epidemic is challenging and many agree that it’s a complex issue with various elements that need to be considered equally when debating the issue. Nevertheless, our sedentary lifestyle is becoming a major factor in our declining health and it will need to be addressed in any initiatives to help turn around the numbers.
All of that said, how can you turn this around if you’re like me and you spend countless hours sitting each day?
Luckily there are simple methods to keep both your mind and body active while also maintaining a balanced diet throughout the day.
Here are 5 easy ways to stay healthy at work:
1. Start your day off with a guided meditation or soft music on your phone or music player. Download a simple five-minute meditation, take a deep breath, and check out. I like to do this before I start checking emails or responding to messages. This helps clear my mind from any stress induced by my commute or pending deadlines and helps me start the work day with energy and positivity. There are many benefits to meditation, including reducing blood pressure which improves heart health.³ A guided meditation is great for novices but you can definitely do this sans music if you can focus without the audio.
2. Brown bag it! Bring your food to work. And I mean all of your food. Fruit, nuts, breakfast, lunch, heck even almond milk and spices if you need it. If your workspace has a communal kitchen with a refrigerator, make use of it. Buy some pretty labels to ensure your coworkers know its yours. The investment in time and money on this step should help keep you away from snack machines and allow you to stay energized throughout the day with healthy foods. I have my own “pantry” at work that I replenish every couple of weeks with the essentials.
3. Work it out! There are dozens of resources online sharing stretches or physical exercises you can do to help you move around and not look crazy in front of your coworkers or boss. My favorite list comes from Greatist which offers a range of workouts, some more obvious than others. I dare you to give some of these a try!
4. The Cubicle Wanderer. Set up a reminder on your phone or computer once every hour to get up out of your chair and walk around for a few minutes. I like to do this as an easy way to get the blood pumping and wake up my limbs and my brain. If you’re not adventurous enough to try Tip #3, than this is for you.
5. Laugh! Share a quick joke with a co-worker or pin a funny (not offensive or inappropriate, please) picture on your phone or wall to lighten your mood. I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble here, especially if your workplace is a serious place where your boss frowns on excessive fraternizing. But a laugh, quick or not, may help improve your blood pressure, stimulates the organs, and reduces pain. Think about the side stitches you get after a really good laugh. You’re getting a burst of aerobic exercise while momentarily clearing your respiratory system. Plus, laughing boosts your mood. Maybe save the big guffaws for your lunch break though.
Would you try any of these tips?
How do you stay healthy at work?
Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Remember to keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂
¹ Trends over 5 Decades in in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and their Associations with Obesity
² The Perils of Sitting Down | Standing Order
³ Meditation Health Benefits: What the Practice Does for your Body
Deskercise: 33 Ways to Exercise at Work