For many Americans, their office work rules their life. For example, a 2010 study found that the average person worked more than 50 hours a week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the typical American spends 100 or more hours annually commuting to their job.
Thankfully, you do not need to be at the gym to proactively take control of your health and fitness. In fact, six simple office-friendly changes to your daily routine can turn your cubicle lifestyle from flab to fit.
1. Stand up.
An American Cancer Society study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men and women who sat for six hours or more per day have a respective 40 percent and 20 percent higher risk of dying than those who sat for less than three hours daily. Other studies have found additional risks connected to sitting for prolonged periods of time in that office chair, including a higher risk of colon cancer and the obvious risk of weight gain related to inactivity. Set a timer to remind yourself to stand up and walk around for five minutes every 45 to 60 minutes — there are many smartphone apps that offer this functionality, as well as Mac and PC desktop programs.
2. Stretch and get your yoga on.
Staring at your computer screen causes eye strain that can lead to long term reductions in your vision strength. Holding yourself over a keyboard may also lead to tense muscles in your shoulders, neck, arms and back. Every 15 to 30 minutes, take a few seconds to do some office-friendly yoga poses. Such stretches include Seated Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana), a pose that targets neck and shoulder tension created by typing for too long; Forward Bend, which helps release tension caused by sitting in that uncomfortable office chair; and Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana), a spinal twist that may help to relieve overall stress.
3. Stay hydrated by drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water daily.
Most offices today have air conditioning systems. The dry air generated by such a system may lead to drier mucous membranes, which may in turn increase your risks of catching a cold or similar illness. For example, a 2004 study by researchers at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research found that people who worked in offices that had air conditioning systems had a higher rate of sick-related absences and more visits to ear, nose and throat doctors. If you find water too boring, try a low- to no-calorie alternative like green tea.
4. Make life harder for yourself.
Many office buildings offer ways for you to burn some extra calories – ways that many people avoid for the sake of convenience. For example, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and park your car at the furthest stall in the parking garage. For extra motivation, slip a pedometer into your shoes or briefcase and see how many steps you can log while walking to meetings or visiting coworkers.
5. Don’t touch your keyboard.
If you think your office bathroom is gross, think again. The typical office keyboard has 60 times more germs than the typical toilet seat. This creates health risks for everyone, but especially for those who eat at their desk. Regularly clean your computer equipment and desk.
6. End the day with meditation.
Several medical studies have found specific benefits for office workers. For example, a study in the Anxiety, Stress & Coping international journal introduced meditation to a Fortune 100 corporation for three months. The researchers concluded that "regular meditators improved significantly...on multiple measures of stress and employee development," including improvements in job tension, job satisfaction and work/personal relationships. By meditating before going home, you train your mind and body to release any stress you picked up throughout the day and can leave your work problems behind without contaminating your home environment with such negative energy.
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