By Lisa Young, Health Educator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMay 7, 2013
Do you want to feel better and more energized at work? Simple changes to at-work habits can have a positive impact on staying healthy. Whether trying to manage a chronic condition or maintain a healthy lifestyle, the tips below can make a difference in your overall health and make your workday more enjoyable.
Eat better at work. Pack your lunch and keep healthy snacks on hand. Skipping breakfast decreases metabolism, so if you don't have time to eat breakfast, pack your breakfast as well. Healthy snacks can help you resist the sugary foods that often plague the office. Good alternatives are cut-up vegetables, fruit slices, light popcorn, low fat whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter and low fat soup in a cup.
Burn calories at work. Make office exercise a part of your daily routine by adding active activities or 10-minute "exercise blasts" to your office routine. Multiple increments of exercise can add up to the 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day that is recommended for health benefits.
• Look for opportunities to stand or move. Stand up while talking on the phone or walk to other offices instead of local e-mails and phone calls.
• Organize a walking group or schedule walking meetings. Do laps inside your building or take your walking meetings outdoors.
• Take a one-minute "cardio burst" to march or jog in place, do jumping jacks, simulate jumping rope, or walk up and down the stairs.
Turn breaks into a short fitness routine. Store resistance bands or small hand weights in a desk drawer. Try these exercises:
• Arm curls. Hold weights at your sides, palms facing upward, bend your elbows, bring your hands up. Keep your arms by your side, lower your hands slowly and repeat.
• Side leg lifts. Stand straight and lightly brace yourself on a desk. Tighten your abdominal muscles and the muscles on your outer thigh. Raise your leg to the side, knee straight, foot flexed. Do 12 repetitions, and then repeat with the other leg.
• Oblique crunches. Sit up straight in a chair; clasp your arms behind your head with your elbows back. Tighten your abs as you bring your opposite knee up toward your opposite elbow. Alternate sides.
• Quad lifts. Sit in a chair with your abs contracted, extend your leg with your foot up, knee straight. Raise your thigh off the chair, lower and repeat. Alternate legs.
Stretch more at work. For people whose jobs require them to sit for long hours, taking a few minutes to stretch can relieve stress, increase productivity and make you feel better. Fit these stretches, along with relaxed breathing, into your schedule.
• Neck stretches. Close your eyes. Let your chin drop down to your chest until you feel a stretch along the back of your neck. Slowly bring your shoulders up toward your ears, and then relax them down. Take the right ear to the right shoulder, then roll your head forward and then the left ear to the left shoulder. Keep the shoulders relaxed and do not hurry. Take three to five rolls and then switch directions for another five rolls.
• Back stretch. Place both feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands onto your knees. On an inhale, arch the back and look up toward the ceiling. On the exhale, round the spine and let your head drop forward. Repeat for five breaths.
• Seated forward bend. Push your chair back from your desk. Bring both feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your back. Straighten your arms, drawing the interlaced fingers down. Fold at the waist, bringing your interlaced hands over your back. Rest your chest on your thighs and release your neck.
• Seated spinal twist. Sit sideways in your chair, feet flat on the floor. Twist towards the back of the chair, holding the back with both hands. Repeat the other way.
Following these simple tips to eat better and move more during the work day can improve your overall health.