We all know that to stay healthy, we need to eat nutritiously and work out, but if you sit at an office all day, you know how hard it can be to keep up on these habits. It's important to find extra things to do to stay healthy if you have a desk job and spend most of your time sitting, as you're at a higher risk for health problems down the line from being more sedentary. Although it requires a little more effort, you still can keep yourself in optimal shape even if your job demands you spend your entire workday in front of a computer.
Although working out can help improve many facets of your health, the positive effects of exercise aren't enough to completely counteract your daily inactivity, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "Drink water, move your body, get enough sleep — all of these things play an essential role in the ability for your brain to function on a cellular level," says health coach and physical therapist Katie Henry PT, DPT, HHC, CYT over email.
If you spend all day in the office, but still want to pick up on the most beneficial habits, consider these 11 ways to stay healthy if you have a desk job.
1. Eat Breakfast
It's tempting to rush out the door and just grab your morning coffee, but do yourself a favor and allow yourself some breakfast. "You may begin to feel fatigued, sluggish, and moody or just out of sorts if you skip breakfast, and your memory, concentration and mental or physical performance may be impacted negatively," says nutrition and lifestyle coach Stephanie Burg over email.
2. Drink A Lot Of Water
Even just mild dehydration can cause moodiness and fatigue, according to a study from the Journal of Nutrition. "Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces of quality water daily and keep a large water contain with you at all times," says health coach Gina Van Luven over email. "Taking sips during meetings or in between tasks can help you maintain much needed hydration."
3. Maintain Good Posture
"It's easy to get your back and neck out of whack when sitting at a desk all day. All your nerves run through your spine. If any of your nerves are depressed, you may experience a dip in your performance," says Van Luven. "Ensuring you have an ergonomic arrangement, sitting up straight, and aligning your head properly with your screen can hep you maintain a healthy spine and healthy body."
Working a 9-to-5 can be extremely stressful, and incorporating mindfulness meditation into your day can help you manage that built up anxiety and stress, according to Harvard Health. And meditation doesn't have to be just sitting in silence. "Active meditation can include moving the body in order to get out of your head— dancing, walking, running, for example — whereas passive meditation requires introversion (usually by means of sitting or lying still) in order to quiet the mind," says Burg.
5. Take Time For Lunch
"It's easy to skip lunch when you're hunkered down with a busy project," says Van Luven. "However, your food is your fuel." In addition to nourishing yourself, it's important to give your mind a rest. Allowing your brain a break can help improve your productivity later on.
Refresh both your body and your mind throughout the day by taking some time to get up and stretch. "Doing any one thing for a long period of time can be both physically and mentally stressful," says Van Luven. "By taking short, 3 to 5 minute breaks throughout your day, you can get the oxygen flowing through your body and brain."
7. Stand Whenever Possible
One study from the European Heart Journal found that excessive sitting was associated with worse health, but if participants replaced two hours a day with standing, they showed lower blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and lower risk of heart disease. "If you can, stand up while flipping through files or making phone calls," says certified holistic health coach Kimberly Petrosino over email. "It might feel a little awkward at first, but chances are no one around you will even notice."
8. Change Your Means Of Transportation
"Park further away and take the stairs," says Petrosino. "Every way you can add steps into your day is helpful. If you can't take the steps all the way to your floor, walk as many as you can and take the elevator the rest of the way. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! Use the restroom on another floor, and take the stairs to get there. "
9. Practice Weight Training
Don't let sitting all day wreak havoc on your muscles. "Thirty minutes of high intensity training once a week is all your body requires to combat muscle loss (sarcopenia)," says fitness trainer and nutrition coach Blair Wilson, founding member of the Canadian Sarcopenia Foundation (CSF) over email. "In fact, your body requires up to one week to adequately recover and build muscle."
10. Get Adequate Sleep
Sure, you work late and get into the office early, but it's time to start prioritizing sleep. Lack of sleep can leave you at serious risk for chronic health problems, according to WebMD, and it can also affect your performance at work. "Sleep is the time where the brain 'cleans itself out,'" says Henry. "If you don't get enough sleep and can't think clearly, it is because your brain hasn't been able to fully re-charge and the waste' products from all of your daily activity are still in the way."
11. Just Smile
If your day is rough and nothing is going your way, just try forcing yourself a smile. "It's been shown that smiling has hormonal and physiological response, which make us feel better and want to smile more," says Van Luven. "Unless your desk job consists of watching comedies all day, you may want to consider smiling a little more."
The more time you take throughout your day to do things for yourself, the healthier you will be.
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