5 Ways to Stay Healthy When Working at a Desk

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Let’s be honest, we live in a society where working at a desk has become a reality for most of us and sooner or later, your body will pay the price.

The price we pay includes increasing your risk of metabolic syndrome to putting you at risk for a heart attack, stroke and overall poor health. Sitting IS the new smoking.

Sitting is being introduced to younger populations every day and as a result, most of us are now familiar with common sitting-related issues such as lower back pain, wrist and neck pain or overall lack of mobility.

If you’re looking for options to curb the negative effects of sitting, while still remaining productive at work, try these 5 simple changes that will help you stay healthy and in shape.

1. Follow the “28/2” rule 

Ok, ok… I might have made up that rule… but just because you haven’t heard of it before, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.

So bear with me for a minute…

Sitting isn’t actually bad in and of itself. The real problem is that you sit in the same position for hours on end. Studies suggest that there isn’t one magic position that is best for your spine. In fact, the more positions you can get yourself into, the better. MOVEMENT is the key to spinal health.

By moving regularly, you also ensure that your joints get fresh blood and oxygen shuttled to them, keeping them healthy.

Every 28 minutes, you need to get up for 2 minutes and move (hence the 28/2 rule). This breaks the cycle and prevents your muscles from settling at a given length and your joints to get stuck in a certain angle.

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Here are a few strategies you can use to stick to that simple routine:

Stand during phone calls 

During the times you don’t need to use your keyboard, put on your headset and get on your feet. You can simply do some ankle circles, move your shoulders around and look up at the ceiling for a few seconds.

Walk after you eat

Take full advantage of your lunch break by going for a stroll after you’re done eating. In addition to getting you to move, studies have shown that a post-meal walk significantly lowers your blood glucose levels, which in turn will reduce chances of a mid-afternoon “crash”.

Make frequent trips to the water cooler

Staying hydrated will ensure your body is properly functioning throughout the day. It will also keep you from consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, that have been shown to contribute to many diseases like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Plus, everybody knows that it’s the best place to be in the office. So go there often!

2.Adjust your work station properly 

Now you’re spending at least 4 minutes out of your chair for every hour you spend in the office. For the 56 minutes remaining, it is crucial that you pay attention to the details. If you don’t, you might end up sitting in a chair that’s too low, a desk that’s too high or looking at a computer screen in a way that makes you feel like Quasimodo.

This can result in a variety of ailments, such as eyestrain, shoulder pain, back pain, arm pain, wrist pain, and neck pain.

Pick the right chair

The two best options you have are an exercise ball or an ergonomic, adjustable chair (link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000PWGZOI/)

The exercise ball will force you to keep a stable core and improve your balance. Think of it as your core staying “awake” instead of letting you slouch or rest in an unhealthy posture. It also keeps your spine moving as you make small adjustments to balance yourself, which is a very good thing.

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If you decide to purchase a better chair, use this great resource (Link: http://www.ergotron.com/tabid/305/language/en-us/default.aspx) to figure out the best settings for your height.

Adjust your monitor height

You should be able to look at your screen without tilting your head down at all. If you are looking down, this will slowly pull your head in front of your body, putting excessive strain on your neck and upper back musculature.image-4

This might demand a drastic increase in monitor height. The cheap solution is to stack some books under your laptop or screen base to reach the ideal position.

If you work on a laptop, consider investing in an external keyboard and mouse which will allow you to work with your arms in the correct position. This way you won’t have to type with your arms up around your head.

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Try a standing work station

With the rising popularity of standing desks, it’s becoming easier than ever to modify your work area, without having to break the bank.

With options like Oristand (Link: http://oristand.co/) you can switch from sitting to standing in a matter of seconds without having to rely on a bulky and expensive adjustable desk.

3.Pack your meals 

You might still be the one laughing at your colleague who brings his or her own food to work in a mason jar instead of eating out every day. But my hope is that by the end of this section, you’ll be on their team.

There are countless upsides to bringing your own food to work. Let’s go through the big ones.

Packing your food will:
1. Save you money – You can buy in bulk and take advantage of your freezer instead of paying top dollar for every ingredient on your plate at each meal. You also avoid paying the restaurant’s expenses.
2. Save you time – Since you’re cooking multiple meals at once, you avoid having to cook over and over again of the following meals. I estimate that for every hour I spend meal prepping, I save at least two hours down the road.
3. Teach you portion control – You can only eat what you bring with you and since you prepped your food when you aren’t starving, you can make good decisions as to how much food you should pack.

Even with all these benefits, packing your meals sounds tedious… And it is!!! Unless you plan for it. If you go in with the intention of making extra food and pack it, you will have a much easier time than if you scramble at 6am to try and find fridge remains to bring to work.

 


You don’t need this to succeed!

To get started, simply plan two meals you can prep in larger quantities before you go shopping. If you know what you’re making, it will make it a lot easier to shop.

Two of my favorite meals to prep are:
Chicken with roasted potatoes and salad, and Salmon with rice and steamed green beans.

The preparation time for these two recipes is very minimal and will give you lots of food to pack. With this, you can alternate lunches for four days, and also have some food ready for the evenings when you don’t have the time or the energy to cook.

4.Encourage your company to have a fitness program

It is a well known fact that exercise increases productivity at work. But it’s not always easy to stick to a routine when you have a tight budget and deal with the scheduling nightmare that comes with attending fitness classes.

With a corporate fitness program like Fitz, you can have access to hundreds of different classes (yoga, spin, TRX, zumba, strength, crossfit and many more) without the headache of having to join each gym and deal with membership fees and times. You get to decide what class you are going to attend, depending on your schedule and personal preference. It is a pay per use model that is also an excellent way to limit costs for the company, making it an ideal model for any employer who cares about their employees well being.

Fitz also tracks class attendance and results for each individual, which means that your company can hold office-wide challenges that include everyone and reinforce team spirit.

 

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A corporate fitness program like Fitz also keeps you motivated by providing access to a wide variety of classes (Karate, stretch classes, dance classes) to choose from.

5.Don’t only exercise at the gym

Pushing yourself hard in the gym is a good thing. What is even better is to take some time to work on the “cob-webs” that may have collected in the other corners of your body. This doesn’t have to be done in the gym and it’s a perfect way to start your morning or wind down at the end of a busy day.

Here’s an easy 5 minute mobility routine that you can perform at home with no equipment at all. Once you’re familiar with all the exercises.

Sean Seale is a Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and NCCP Trained Weightlifting Coach, as well as the owner of Upside Strength. Sean runs Upside Strength and does work with a variety of clients, from endurance athletes to moms, all on a mission to get stronger.

References:
1.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14574344?dopt=Abstract
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3794512/
3. http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/walking-after-eating-lowers-glucose-in-healthy-people-and-diabetes-patients/
4. Koning L, Malik VS, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverage consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men. Am J ClinNutr. 2011;93:1321-7.
5. Dhingra R, Sullivan L, Jacques PF, Wang TJ, Fox CS, Meigs JB, D’Agostino RB, Gaziano JM, Vasan RS. Soft drink consumption and risk of developing cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged adults in the community. Circulation. 2007;116:480-8.
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17599795
7. http://journals.lww.com/joem/abstract/2011/08000/employee_self_rated_productivity_and_objective.3.aspx