First there was fat. Then there were carbs. Now there’s sitting. It seems like no matter what we do these days — what we eat, what we do, how we work — we’re endangering our health. In fact, just staying too long (more than three hours) in one position is enough to shut down the electrical activity in your legs, stop burning calories, lower fat-fighting enzymes to near zero, drop HDL cholesterol production, increase your risk of diabetes, and shave two years off of your life.
But with so much work taking place behind a desk these days, how is the average office worker to stay fit?
While a treadmill desk probably won’t fit your budget (or your sense of style), standup desks are a much more affordable and popular option for engaging both your legs and your core. That said, to achieve maximum benefits, you’ll still need to alter your position. No standing still like a soldier, tempting as it may be.
Stay fit in your seat
When you must remain in your chair, sit tall to engage your core, or swap your seat for an exercise ball, which will improve your balance, too. There are also a range of in-chair exercises available, whether it’s simply straightening your legs, doing full out chair push-ups, or stretching against your desk to really get that blood flowing.
Move around your office
As a general rule, it’s best to get up and move about every 45 minutes (which is how long most people can concentrate on a task anyway). Have a little chat in the break room. If you need help remembering to stretch or get up, either set a timer for 45 minutes, or choose from a host of programs that will automatically remind you to take a break. Another idea is to do a brief workout during lunch, or at least take a walk around the park. Drinking a lot of water can also have the dual benefit of speeding up that metabolism and, well, getting you out of your chair frequently.
Beware of the break room temptress. While office treats are by far the most popular way to break up a boring day, you won’t be doing your health goals any favors by chowing down on leftover cupcakes. Eating healthy snacks won’t just stop cravings; it will help regulate your mood and energy levels throughout the day.
For extra health (and financial) benefits, pack your own lunch rather than eating out. This way you can control your portions without being lured into polishing with potential leftovers, and you can make sure you’re getting real and nutritious food.
Ditch modern convenience
Even if you have to sit at work, doesn’t mean you have to sit on your way to work. Ditch the car for a bike, your own two legs, or even public transport, which will at least require you to walk from your home to the station to work and back. Swapping stairs for the elevator is also a great way to get that heart pumping.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of opportunities for health and movement throughout an otherwise sedentary work day. You just have to get a little creative and structure nutrition and fitness into your every day activities so that they become automatic. Then you’ll be able to have your cake carrots and eat them too.