Four desk-job exercise and diet tips to stay fit (sponsored)
By Jessica Smith, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente
We all know we should be getting more exercise. Yet with busy schedules — whether it’s kids, high intensity or multiple jobs, or something else — finding the time to be physically active can be challenging.
But just because you can’t block out an hour to run on a treadmill doesn’t mean that exercise is out of reach. As it turns out, an average workday at the office — any office — is rife with opportunities to sneak in micro workouts throughout the day that will not only keep you healthy but may help you lose weight as well.
The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle
So what, exactly, is so bad about sitting down all the time? According to Dr. Jeannine Benson, a primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente in Edwards, it’s all about circulation.
“Basically, when we sit all day, our circulation isn’t very good,” she says. If you sit for long periods of time, the blood flow doesn’t circulate to all of your organs as well as it could.
Lack of circulation can, in time, lead to serious consequences, such as increased blood pressure and cholesterol, which in turn increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
When flowing adequately, blood circulation not only brings oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs, but clears away fats in the blood stream, moves helpful white blood cells around and clears out your lymph nodes, getting rid of germs and boosting your immune system.
Additionally, sitting takes a toll on bone strength and density, affects posture and muscle strain, and increases likeliness of weight gain.
Sitting down most of the day only burns a minimal amount of calories, putting people at risk for weight gain and obesity, “which then affects everything else in their body,” Benson says.
Perpetuating bad habits
Another problem with remaining sedentary is that it creates a ripple effect throughout your entire day.
Whether sitting in a chair in the office or lying on the couch on the weekend, “it actually makes you more tired as the day goes on,” says Benson. This behavior becomes cyclical and perpetuates itself.
That feeling of general fatigue can lead to skipping daily workouts or making poor food choices, going for easy and quick meals over healthy options.
“People make bad decisions when they’re tired,” Benson says.
Fortunately, we have the ability to break our bad habits.
“You have to make the decision that you want to change these bad habits,” says Benson. Once that decision is made, things can improve.
Tip One: Plan out your food
Give yourself healthy food options in the office by bringing a healthy lunch rather than going out or eating from the shared food table, which often offers unhealthy items such as donuts, cookies and pizza.
If you need your caffeine in the morning, take your coffee black or consider caffeinated tea in lieu of an overly sweetened drink.
Got a snack drawer? Throw out sugary temptation and replace it with healthy options such as fruits and veggies.
Tip Two: Walk Whenever Possible
If it’s a nice day and you live close enough, walk to work (or hop on your bike). If not, park at the end of the parking lot and walk yourself to the front door.
If your office has stairs, take them instead of the elevator. Benson herself tries to walk the nearby flight of stairs at least once every hour.
Hold walking meetings, in which everyone gathers for a stroll around the block instead of sitting in a conference room. Or if that’s not possible, even a standing meeting, without chairs, helps improve circulation.
Tip Three: Keep moving
Remember to stretch. Move your arms and legs, wiggle your toes and fingers. Go online to find websites with various easy stretches to do at a chair or desk.
Try replacing your chair with an exercise ball, which strengthens core muscles. Try a standup desk, to keep you vertical and improve posture.
On your way to the copier? Try some gentle lunges. While at the copier, work your muscles by jogging in place, doing toe raises or even a few pushups against the wall — whatever you’re comfortable with.
Tip Four: Engage co-workers
While some people might feel nervous about doing these little actions in front of co-workers, use it as a way to involve them as well. Create a game or competition to encourage each other to move more, take more stairs, etc. Or just take a quick break from work for a mind-clearing, friendly walk around the office or around the block.
Every bit helps
Whatever you do, Benson advises people to start small. By taking on any of the habits above, people are making a difference in their day-to-day health. Some, especially those who previously led a very sedentary lifestyle, may soon start to notice weight loss as well.
However, Benson cautions that these small workday activities, while helpful, should not replace regular exercise, but rather enhance it. She recommends most people still aim to get around 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise each week.