I am new to the world of working at a desk. After many years of working in retail, being on my feet for the whole day constantly lifting and moving things (let me tell you, mannequins are much heavier than you’d expect!) I have the luxury of getting to work from a seated position. However, my FitBit was quick to tell me that my steps per day have dropped considerably. Thanks a lot FitBit, way to ruin my fun! In seriousness though, for many people working in an office job staying fit can be a real task, there’s no time in the morning or you’re tired after work or there’s just no motivation. Remaining sedentary for long periods of time doesn’t just affect your waistband, it can have much more serious repercussions. A 2011 study found that for those that sit still for longer periods of time the risk of developing diabetes increases by 112% and the risk of cardiovascular events increases by 147% (the risk of death as a result of these cardiovascular events increases by 90%). Now I don’t mean to fearmonger, but these statistics are a little more worrying than if those shorts from last year will still fit this summer. Well no more, fellow desk dwellers and tea lovers! It’s time to make a change! With a few simple changes to your day to day routine you can improve your fitness, save a little cash AND get paid to do it.
- These boots were made for walking. Or cycling. Or running.
That’s right, it’s that advice healthy living adverts have been giving for years. We need to walk more. This has to be one of the easiest things to change in your day to day routine, it’s so simple and anyone can do it, there’s no excuses! Do you use public transport to get to work? Walk to the next stop before starting your journey rather than getting on (or off) at the nearest possible location. Walk up the escalator rather than just standing, those steps give a great leg workout. Or even better, take the stairs! If you keep the pace up you can often beat the escalator, there’s something extremely satisfying about beating the machine. Maybe you drive to work? That’s no excuse! Rather than prowling round the car park looking for the space closest to the door, embrace the distant spaces and walk from the car! A bit of fresh air will do you good! I’m sure those of you that work from home think you got away with it, no way! Think about having a commute to work. Give yourself an extra 20 minutes before work begins and get out and go for a walk, you’ll clear your head and when you get back you know it’s business time. The same goes for when you finish your working day. Finally there’s those of you that already walk to work. Well done, you’re already making a difference! There’s always room for improvement though. How about picking up the pace, set yourself a time limit to get to work within? Or taking a longer route to get there? Regardless of how you travel there’s always change that can be made, believe me, you’ll feel better for it.
- Attack of the snacks.
If you’re anything like me food can be a major distraction in the workplace. Once I get a slight feeling of hunger those thoughts get more and more dominant until all I’m thinking about is those biscuits in my bag. The worst thing is I’m not even that hungry most of the time! Snacking can be a major problem at work, whether it’s that secret box of Maltesers stashed in your drawer or treats in the breakroom, it’s easy to pick at things and not think of the calories “just one more” is adding. The solution to this is easy, keep things out of sight. Don’t have your snacks on your desk, or in a drawer you open all the time. Keep them in your bag, or stashed in the furthest most point of your workspace. If you have to move to get them you have time to think about if you need them. Or work with a rewards based system, such as I finished writing this document, I can have a few grapes now. I also find that having a glass of water or a cup of healthy tea available helps, especially if it’s in my eyeline. If I’m filling up on liquid there’s no room for snacks right? However you choose to limit yourself just make sure you’re choosing healthy snacks such as fruit, trail mix or seeds.
- Raise a glass (of water, obviously).
This one should really go without saying. Drinking a suitable amount of water (about 2 litres) a day is SO important. It can help concentration, it can stave off those headaches caused by dehydration and it can improve your skin. 2 litres a day may seem a little ambitious, but think of it this way. If you work your standard 8 hour day, that’s just 250ml of water you need to drink per hour. Your average mug holds at least this quantity. All you have to do is drink one mug of water, per hour and you’re getting all the water you need. That’s not even factioning in what you’ll be drinking after your energetic walk to and from work (right?!) and in the evening. Plus think of the extra exercise you’ll be getting walking to and from the water cooler! There’s some great free apps (such as Waterlogged or FitBit) available to track your water intake and challenge you to meet targets.
Of course there are other beverage options if you’re getting a little tired of water. Now I’m not talking about anything that comes from a vending machine or can have syrup added to it, step away from the coffee cup! I’m of course talking about tea, and this isn’t just a shameless plug about our products, tea can have huge health benefits! Don’t just go reaching for your standard “milk and two sugars” brew though, there are much better options available! Green tea can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes. Mint tea can relieve stress and alleviate stomach problems. Black tea can give you that all important caffeine kick but is still full of antioxidants. Maybe try switching out one cup of water in the morning and one in the afternoon, for a refreshing cuppa.
- Desk-ercise routine (sorry)
I’m sure for many people taking time out of the day to fit in a full exercise routine, or the space for that matter. There are however some simple stretching exercises you can do at your desk to keep your body healthy and get the blood flowing. WebMD has a thorough walk through of exercises you can perform from the comfort of your own desk. Perhaps print out a copy of the list and keep it by your desk to refer to throughout to day.
One very important exercise to remember is for your eyes. Focussing on a computer screen for long periods at a time can cause severe eye strain. The best thing for this is the 20-20-20 exercise, it’s easy to remember and easy to do. Every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. Furthermore make sure your computer screen is an arms length away from you and ideally the top of the screen sits at eye level. Make sure you blink regularly and take breaks when possible.
- Kill calories not time!
When I was doing some research for this piece a lot of people were recommending going for a walk at least once an hour. One place advised a 15 minute walk every hour! No matter how accommodating your boss is I doubt many workplaces would be willing to accept a total of 2 hours of walking around every 8 hour work day. You can, however, utilize the little moments of free time you do get. Think about the time you spend waiting for something the print, for the kettle to boil or even just while talking to another colleague what could you be doing rather than just standing still?
Standing push ups
These aren’t going to be as beneficial as your standard push ups, but they’re definitely preferable to getting up close and personal with the office floor. Simply do your standard push up movement only with your hands on a sturdy wall rather than the floor. You could either work with reps or with however long it takes for that fax to send.
I think we’re all familiar with squats. This exercise benefits your legs and derriere and can be performed in any space big enough to spread your arms in. Do it at your desk, while waiting for the printer or even after a bathroom break (depending on the size of your bathroom cubicles). A word of warning though, if you’re wearing heels it might be best to go barefoot it’s a less glamorous look but so it a sprained ankle!
Bicep curls/Tricep pushdown
This one doesn’t even involve getting up! Pull your chair quite close into your desk, adjusting the seat if necessary. Keeping your tucked in to your side, make a fist while your elbow is at a 90 degree angle. place your fist under the desk and push up, as if you were trying to lift the desk (this really only works if your desk is heavy enough to resist the pressure). Push for 6-10 seconds, repeating 6 times per arm. For the tricep pushdown it’s the same sort of approach, only pushing down on the top of the table.
Now there’s no more excuses! Never mind time, money or motivation we can all be healthier and happier within the office. Let’s start a revolution! So maybe your workmates are giving you a funny look for doing squats at the watercooler, get them involved! Spread the good word and get everyone drinking more water, eating less snacks and treating their bodies better!