Recently, I read a horrifying statistic: those who sit an average of three hours or more every day shorten their lifespan by two years. It literally made me want to jump out of my chair and walk around a bit. This knowledge made for a more active summer for myself, and made me wonder how we can prevent over-sitting at work or school. Summer’s nearing an end, and for many, that means an increase in down-time. I’ve comprised a list of a few options to keep you from feeling fatigued and sedentary in the office, as well as a few tips on how to increase your energy overall. Here’s how to stay healthy at work or at school.
1. Invest in a “standing desk” or a “treadmill desk”. Both of these are designed to keep you from sitting at work, allowing circulation to improve, toning your muscles and burning extra calories. If you are using a treadmill desk, you can move at just 0.5 miles per hour and still walk for miles throughout a day’s work, burning hundreds of calories!
2. If you don’t want to invest in an entirely new desk, make sure you get up and move around a bit every 20 minutes. Even if only for a minute or so, getting up moves all of the major muscles in your body, allowing the large leg muscles to release enzymes that break up fat in the bloodstream. The twenty-minute rule works especially well because the body is designed to change physiological conditions after 20 minutes of a new activity, such as increasing blood flow to the brain after 20 minutes of activity or decreasing blood flow after more than 20 minutes of inactivity. Find small tasks to do at 20 minute intervals such as 8:00, 8:20, 8:40, etc. so that you don’t remain too sedentary- your brain and body will thank you!
3. Keep healthy snacks around. It’s easy to grab something quick and probably unhealthy when you’re stressed at work. to avoid this, keep a mini fridge in your office stocked with quick but healthy snacks. Good options include fresh fruit, raw vegetables such as cucumbers and carrots, and almonds. Raw veggies and fruit a bit boring? Add in a yogurt sauce you make yourself from greek yogurt with lemon juice or a small amount of honey.
4. Set water-drinking goals. Every day at work, aim to be drinking 2-3 liters of fluid, preferably water. If you need to, bring a water bottle or two filled every day and marked with goals, such as 16 oz drained by 10:30 AM, to make sure that you’re drinking on a regular basis and not just chugging a bunch of water at once. Water is essential for a healthy metabolism, better brain functioning and helps to reduce cravings.
5. Stock up on healthy pick-me-ups to avoid the “2 o’clock feeling”. If you rely on coffee to keep your energy levels up at work, you may want to try other healthy stimulants for more sustained and less jittery energy. Some favorites of mine are spirulina capsules and green tea. The spirulina will give you a boost of vitamins and minerals, including iron, an essential mineral for energy and concentration. The green tea will energize the body and mind with small amounts of caffeine, without leaving the same jittery effect as coffee. The l-theanine in green tea also helps to release the energy slowly, promoting feelings of relaxation and alertness.
6. Don’t just get up, move! Using your body every day is absolutely crucial for your health. However, for many of us, an hour at the gym each day just isn’t practical. What you can do though, is measure your steps. Popular devices such as the FitBit are incredibly popular right now, encouraging users to get in at least 10,000 steps of walking or running in every day, or about 5 miles. These tend to be more motivating than traditional pedometers because they can be checked on smartphones or over the internet and include calorie burn as well as information on when in the day the user is active. Investing in a tool like this may pay off, but to begin with, a simple, inexpensive pedometer or free smartphone pedometer app can be motivating enough to make you walk whenever you can.
7. Surround yourself with people who hold similar goals. Being at work or even school can give you the opportunity to meet people with all different interests, and if yours include a healthier lifestyle, you can probably find someone to help you stay on track. See if a neighbor in your office would want to go to a weight training class after work, or walk to a new healthy restaurant during your lunch break. Do you bring a lunch from home? You can still invite that coworker to take a short walk mid-day to get the blood flowing. Plus, walking helps creativity, and you may return to your desk with new inspiration. Finding an office fitness buddy will keep you focused and make a healthy lifestyle more fun.
8. Develop a routine. Those who go to school or work full time will almost always encounter fatigue at some point. Many times, this is due to a stressful and sometimes erratic schedule. Maybe you need to meet a deadline for a project, and end up staying up until 3 AM one night, then pay for it the whole week. To the best of your ability, try to intersperse work throughout the week so that you can go to sleep around the same time each night and get 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep is crucial for awareness and can even promote healthy eating habits because of the regulation of hunger hormones that occurs while your body is at rest.
9. Exercise in the morning. Most people do not want to work out after a long day, even if they’ve promised themselves they would do it earlier in the day. Slowly force yourself to wake up even 30 minutes earlier to get in a workout. Even if you can only find time to run on a treadmill for 20 minutes, you will feel accomplished and set yourself up for a day of success.
10. Find a way to de-stress. When stress builds up, your body reacts negatively. Stress can promote all sorts of ills, from headaches and upset stomach to sudden mood changes. If you’re feeling like your workload is too extreme, make sure that you find time to do vigorous exercise, read a book, take an epsom salt bath, or even meditate. Doing activities like these help rid the body of cortisol, the hormone released by stress. This way, you can avoid suffering some of the negative effects of stress. This week, the InSight Bulletin is focusing it’s #MyTherapy campaign on me-time. How do you relax and how does it help you with your other goals? Let us know on The InSight Bulletin Facebook.
Olivia Clancy is devoted to healthy living for the mind and body. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.