As summer wanes and fall gradually robs us of daylight hours, many of us leave our active lifestyles behind and stay chained to our desks from 9 to 5 and well beyond. The combination of shorter days, increased stress, and being plopped in front of our computers for half our waking hours can spell trouble for those who struggle to keep their weight in check. The good news is there are ways you can stay healthy and fit while working, even if there’s no time to go to the gym.
1. Start your day with a healthy breakfast.
If you don’t have time to eat an omelet or oatmeal before hitting the road to work, then be sure to bring a piece of fruit, a high-fiber low-fat muffin, or instant oatmeal with you to work. Remember, a donut is not a good breakfast – avoid getting on that carbohydrate roller coaster first thing in the morning by eating a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast. It will give you the energy you need to make it all the way to lunch without cheating.
2. Pack a healthy lunch.
If mornings are hectic, then pack your lunch the night before. Include healthy munchies (raw vegetables, almonds, string cheese, low-fat popcorn, fruit ,or yogurt) that you can snack on later in the day, when food cravings are most likely to hit. This way, you can avoid the temptation to satisfy your hunger pangs at the office vending machine – the nemesis of anyone looking to lose weight or keep it off! You’ll not only save calories, but you’ll save a sizeable chunk of change. With the money you save on snacks and by brown bagging it, you can afford to regularly treat yourself to a stress-reducing massage! How’s that for an idea?
Remember, free food, bagels for the entire office, or those brownies that Bev baked and brought it, are not free of calories. Quite the contrary, they are loaded with sugar and fat – so stay away.
3. Take 90-seconds to stretch it out!
One of the biggest mistakes we make is sitting slumped over our desks and transfixed by our computers for hours on end. But, you can change all that by simply remembering to do 90 seconds of stretching every half hour or so. Stretching not only increases your metabolism, it also alleviates stress. Increasing your heart rate even slightly can help keep your mind alert and keep those calories burning at a steady rate. Here are a few quick stretches you can do even while sitting.
- Back and side stretch. Sit up tall and stretch both your arms overhead and reach toward the ceiling. After 10 seconds, try reaching a bit higher with first your right hand, then your left – and repeat. Do this for 10 reps.
- Upper shoulder stretch. Bring your left ear to your left shoulder and hold for 10 seconds, repeat on your right side. Using your hand, gently press your head toward that shoulder to increase the stretch.
- Neck and waist stretch. Here’s a new twist. Facing forward, turn your head toward the left while twisting your torso to the right, and hold for 10 seconds. Reverse.
- Shoulder relaxation. Slowly do ten forward and then ten backward shoulder rolls. You’ll release tension and find that your posture improves as well.
- Arm stretch. Sit up tall, interlock your hands, and push them out in front of you as far as you can. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
You’ll be surprised at how your muscles respond, how stress melts away, and how invigorated you’ll feel after this little 90-second stretch. Do this at least once an hour, preferably every 30 minutes. Your productivity will soar. Also, keep reminding yourself throughout the day to sit up straight. Slouching can cause backaches, headaches, and that overall sluggish feeling.
4. Alternate with 90-second strengthening.
In addition to stretching, it’s important to do some strength training. Here are three quick exercises you can do at your desk that will give you a good workout and pay off in more toned abs, butt, and torso.
- Abs-olutely simple. This little exercise couldn’t be easier. Sitting tall, tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat several times. As you build up your abdominal strength, you’ll be able to do more reps and hold longer.
- Don’t just sit on it! That’s right; use your butt muscles while sitting. Simply clench those muscles tightly for 5 seconds and then relax and repeat. Increase reps and holding time as you get stronger.
- Strengthen your arms, shoulders, and chest in this all-in-one exercise. While sitting, place both hands on the arms of your chair and slowly lift your bottom off your seat. Lower yourself gradually and stop just shy of the seat and hold for a few seconds. This is guaranteed to give you a great upper body workout – repeat several times.
5. Don’t just sit there!
Get in the groove, get on the move. What does that mean? Don’t be a dead weight. It means getting up out of your seat, taking the stairs, and going for walks every chance you get.
- Stand up! There’s no reason to stay seated all day long. If you happen to be on the phone or reading an office memo, stand up while you’re doing it.
- Take the stairs. Whenever you climb a set of stairs, you’re using the large muscle group in your legs (glutes, hamstrings, and calves) and that helps to increase your heart rate and increase your metabolism. If you work in an office building, it’s easy to find stairs. Remember, you don’t get much of an aerobic workout pushing the button on the elevator.
- Go for a walk. Movement helps keep your metabolism from slowing down. Here are a few ways to make walking part of your daily routine:
- Instead of sending an email or picking up the phone, walk to the office down the hall to deliver your message.
- Use half your lunch hour to eat and 30 minutes to walk inside or outside, even around the parking lot.
- Park as far away as possible from the office, that way you can start out your day with a brisk walk even before you enter the building and before getting back in your car at the end of the day. If you take public transportation, try getting off one or two stops sooner and walk the rest and take the stairs, not the elevator, when you get there.
If you replace your coffee break with a quick walk, you’ll get your heart pumping, release endorphins, and be more alert and productive without the caffeine. So, if you’re feeling lethargic, take a walk or get a breath of fresh air.
6. Stay hydrated.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. Keep water handy or take frequent walks to the water cooler. What we often mistake for hunger is simply dehydration. So, keep well hydrated.
7. Stay committed.
It’s easy to remember to do these things for a few days, but that won’t get you where you want to be. To lose weight, maintain weight loss, and get fit, you must vow to do this every day. You can do it if you make yourself a promise – and it’s a promise worth keeping.
8. Dealing with the boss.
Exercise, stretching ,and walking are all beneficial stress-reducers and help you lower your risk of stress-induced munching. Also, when you lower stress, you start thinking clearer and increase productivity. So, if your boss has anything to say to you about your taking a few minutes out of every day to stretch, exercise. and walk, then tell him or her it helps clear your head and energizes you, so that you’re actually much more productive.
9. Dealing with co-workers
Don’t be embarrassed. You’re doing what you need to do to stay fit and healthy. Educate your co-workers and, before long, they’ll be joining you for those lunchtime walks and you’ll even catch them stretching and bringing in healthy snacks. They’ll admire you for it.
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