Exercising is obviously key to our well-being, but when you think about it, an hour’s workout is just 4% of your day. It’s therefore really important for your health that you make an effort to also stay active outside of your structured exercise time.
Our lifestyles have become alarmingly sedentary in recent years, with lots of adults in the UK spending more than seven of their waking hours sat down. This has been proven to increase our risk of a plethora of health problems, from diabetes to coronary heart disease.
Combined with the less-than-optimal eating habits that many of us pick up once we enter the working world, it’s no wonder that we’re facing an obesity crisis, as well as problems associated with poor posture, like lower back pain and tight hip flexors.
We’ve had a little brainstorm as a team and created a list of our top tips to stay healthy and active at the office…
1) The top one, unsurprisingly, is simply to MOVE. As much as you can. As often as you can. Here are some ideas…
- Get up and walk around at least once every hour. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t forget
- Make the most of your lunch break by getting outside and walking – avoid eating lunch at your desk
- Invest in a good pair of wireless headphones, so that you can make calls at the same time as walking around outside
- Choose the stairs or walk up the elevator
- Walk to work or, if it’s too far, simply get off the bus or train a few stops earlier than you need to. Using a step-tracker app is a great way to motivate yourself to do this – it may seem silly, but seeing those steps rack up to 10,000 or more is a great reward
- Stand as much as you can. If you don’t have standing desks, then try standing up when on phone calls or in internal meetings
- Take some time to stretch (more on this below). Yoga is a really great way to stretch out tight muscles, so see if you can find a lunchtime class near the office
2) Stretch. There are lots of simple stretches you can do in the office – or even in your office chair:
- Seated backbend: while seated, engage your core, take a deep calming breath and reach your arms up high, opening them wide. Gently bend your back and upper chest as you extend your gaze behind you and exhale. Hold for a few seconds, release your arms and repeat
- Seated twist. Sit tall and straight in your chair. On an inhale, twist to one side, with the movement coming from your abdomen rather from your back, using your chair’s armrest as support. Stay in this position for two to three breaths, then do the other side. This is great to relieve tension from hunching over your desk
- Desk shoulder opener. Take a step back from your desk, so that your fingertips are just touching the desk. Lower your torso until it is parallel to the floor, dropping your head in between your arms to stretch out your shoulders. Again, this helps to counteract the inevitable tension that comes from hunching over a desk typing for hours at a time
- Forward fold. This is a great one to do in your coffee break while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Fold over in half, keeping your knees soft and letting your arms and head hang to decompress your neck and shoulders. You can cradle your elbows and sway gently from side to side if that feels good, too
- Doorway chest stretch. This one’s super simple. Stand in a doorway, placing your hands in the doorframe with your wrists, elbows and shoulders in line. Keeping hold of the frame, slowly walk your body forward, out of the doorframe, until you feel a nice stretch in your upper body. You could also lunge forwards, to get the added benefit of a calf stretch on the back leg (repeat on both sides)
3) Office challenges. Getting the whole team involved in an effort to be healthy and active is a great way of keeping motivation high – you’re held accountable to each other and a bit of healthy competition is always good!
- Sign up for a charity 5K together – organise lunch time runs and help each other to stay on track with training
- Look into what fitness classes are available nearby and go along together. Great excuse to get out of the office and do something other than work together
- Something simple like a monthly step challenge is a great way to get people thinking about how active they are
4) Eat breakfast
- A filling, healthy breakfast will give you the energy to get through the morning. Getting your day off to a healthy start means that you’re more likely to make healthy choices for the rest of the day, too! (How many times have you said something along the lines of, “Oh well, I’ve blown the diet now, may as well just forget about it today and treat myself…”? Avoid this mentality)
- Try eating a mix of slow-release carbs, like oats, with fruit, to give you enough energy to get through the morning as well as a quick energy boost
- Having breakfast before you leave the house will help you to avoid the temptation of sugary coffees and on-the-go snacks while you’re commuting to work
5) Avoid office snacks – bring your own
- Step AWAY from the vending machine!
- If you work in an office, chances are there are often chocolates or baked goods lying around. There’s always an excuse to have a treat – the most common being that it’s someone’s birthday. But people can get pretty creative when they want to justify a treat! Like, “We’ve made it to Friday so let’s have some cake!”, “It’s only Monday, so we need something to get us through…”, or “Hey, it’s national cookie day!”. Learn to say no and save treats for when you really want them
- Ditch the sugar. Bring healthy snacks like cut up veggies with hummus, nuts and dark chocolate, or homemade trail mix
6) Avoid energy drinks and sugary sodas
- These drinks cause a quick spike in your blood sugar levels that will just cause you to crash and crave more sugar – you risk finding yourself in a vicious cycle where you keep craving sugary foods and drinks
- Instead, drink plenty of water and green tea, avoiding caffeine where possible
7) Bring your own lunch
- Not only do you know exactly what goes into it, you can save a lot of money by making your own lunch to bring to work. Shop-bought sandwiches are often loaded with hidden sugar and salt, while salads tend to be drowned with calorie-packed dressing
8) Pay attention to your posture
- Sit up tall, with your shoulders back and eyes facing forwards. Adjust your screen and chair if need be, and don’t hesitate to ask HR if they can get a back support for your chair if you feel like that would help
- Research states that maintaining a good posture is not only beneficial for our physical health, but it actually also has a clear link to our mental well-being, too
- Learn how to engage your core
If you need any more advice on staying healthy and active while at work, chat to your trainer who’ll be able to put together a personalised plan of action!