If there was an annual “State of the Office” address from health experts, the news wouldn’t be good. Recent studies have shown that prolonged sitting at the office increases the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, joint pain, and cancer. And after-hours exercise doesn’t seem to prevent the aftershock of those office doldrums. People who sit at the office for most of the workday are much more likely to be unhealthy – even when accounting for workouts outside the 9 to 5 window.
Before we get into different strategies to remain robust in cubicle-land, let’s first look at how WHAT you do impacts HOW you feel.
Activity Levels at Work: Occupation-Dependent
Not all jobs demand sitting around all day. If you’re a construction worker, mailman, plumber, personal trainer or supermarket shelf-stocker, congratulations – your job incorporates enough low-level activity and strenuous movement to get a good dose of daily exercise.
As a general rule of thumb, blue-collar workers typically get enough on-the-job exercise. White-collar workers, on the other hand, spend the better portion of their days immobile. And while most people have enough time away from the office to conduct a personal workout regimen, let’s be honest…with busy family schedules and other commitments, finding motivation to hit the gym for a few hours after an 8-hour day at the office isn’t a realistic option for most folks, especially those with a family.
The lack of daily movement seems to register with most white-collar workers on a sub-conscious level; while unemployed, office workers tend to exercise more than their blue-collar counterparts.
So should most office workers just grin and bear it, and accept diminished health as a normal part of a white-collar job? Absolutely not; as we’ll see in a moment, a smart and serious effort to inject some healthy habits into your 8-hour day just might result in a lifetime of vigor and vitality. Let’s review some things you can do to turn the tables on that unhealthy office environment.
Self-Help, Superior Health: Ten Tips for Achieving Optimal Fitness in the Workplace
Aside from a workplace wellness program, you can implement these relatively easy and positively impactful habits into your daily or weekly work schedule. As research continues to advance regarding how employee work habits affect overall health, it’s apparent that certain daily behaviors aren’t optimal for wellness. These include:
- Extended periods of immobility
- Poor nutritional habits (fast food lunch runs, catered food, etc.)
- Very little physical exercise
- Poor exposure to Vitamin D (inside the office all day)
- Constant snacking and eating during work
So the workplace isn’t a necessarily healthy place, by default (unless you’re lucky enough to work as a personal trainer or have similar employment). Which means that you have to get a little creative during the 9 to 5 grind. Check out these activities that’ll boost your daily energy, help keep you as flexible as possible, and (much to your employer’s satisfaction) become more productive at work.
Don’t just sit there. No, seriously. Sitting for long periods of time isn’t the healthiest activity. Your Achilles tendon shortens and stiffens. All sorts of bad stuff happens. So what can you do? Try getting up every half-hour to engage in water cooler chat. Go get a drink. Instead of emailing a short message, walk over to the other side of the building and deliver it personally.
Utilize lunchtime wisely. Most office workers do the “grab and go” for lunch: a quick trip to the drive-thru, usually with poor nutritional results. Instead of an unhealthy lunch run, bring your own salad. Try a 10-15 minute walk (more on that later). If you’re busy and had a meeting run late, grab a few pieces of fruit, or skip lunch entirely. The important thing here is flexibility; too many office workers fall into bad habits during lunch, with negative consequences. For example, a big lunch rich in processed carbs causes that drowsy mid-afternoon feeling. Start spending your lunch hours in a more healthy way, and you (and your employer) will benefit!
Try the magic carpet ride. If you have a sturdy office chair and above-average flexibility, try this quick and effective routine. While seated, cross your legs. Grab both armrests and slightly elevate your body in the chair, just a couple of inches above the seat. It helps to keep your abdominals flexed during this exercise, as your core strength will improve with noticeable results. Remember, only robust office chairs can handle this office workout.
Go outside. Vitamin D is an important part of anyone’s overall fitness profile, and a brief walk at lunchtime does two positive things: it gets you moving, and also provides some Vitamin D from the best source possible: the sun!
Mind your posture. Poor posture creates a “domino effect” of bad health – slumped shoulders, low back pain, decreased energy and more. There are plenty of helpful exercises you can do – even while sitting down – that offset the most serious side-effects of “office chair syndrome.”
If your employer already participates in an occupational health program, you should take advantage of all the services provided. If not, or if your employer’s current plan needs an upgrade, consider all the benefits of an Occupational Health Plan. Urgent Care Extra’s plan benefits Arizona-area companies and employees. Wherever you work, it helps to research your employer’s occupational plan or look into establishing one, if you don’t already have one.