You might have read about how to stay fit at work a dozen times, but how often do you practice what others preach?
How many healthy work lunches, office workouts and desk yoga asanas have you attempted lately? If you’re still grappling with how to practice fitness in the office, then take a look at these simple, yet effective, fitness habits. These habits are at the very root of a great work-fitness balance for many fitness enthusiasts. We begin with the popular habit of desk stretches
Avoid stiffness from hours of sitting – get stretching:
Sitting is not a natural posture for the human body. Hours of sitting tightens and lengthens different lower body muscles in a state of perpetual contraction or extension. This means that muscle groups like the hamstrings, glutes, and quads weaken over time. This makes it even tougher for a person who sits for long hours to strengthen the lower body even with exercise. Long hours of sitting also affects your core, causing weak backs and protruding stomachs. The result – lower back pain, an unflattering slouch and a widened pelvic floor.
To avoid this stiffness and weakness: Get off your chair, stand up and stretch your lower body muscles. Practise quad, hamstring and glute stretches. Add lower back and upper back stretches to the mix. Hold each stretch for 8-10 seconds.
Avoid dehydration that causes unreasonable hunger pangs – get drinking:
Most people drink water when eating or right after a meal. However, your body needs a constant supply of water, a few sips now and then, through the day. So keep a bottle of water with a small cup at your desk.
Sip a cup of water every 45-60 minutes. You could include this with the desk stretches. Try this out for a few days and you’ll notice that you stop craving unhealthy snacks every few hours.
Sit straight – adjust your chair, desk, computer screen and keyboard:
Do whatever it takes to avoid poor posture at work. Poor posture causes slouching, which leads to an entire chain of unhealthy outcomes. Slouching places strain on the wrong joints, primarily those around the thoracic and lumbar spines. This could be caused by a lower chair, a higher desk, a keyboard that doesn’t have elbow desk space around it, or a computer screen that’s either too close, too far, or too low.
Ensure that your knees are at 90 degrees with the floor. Your back should be straight. Your elbows should be places on a support (desk or armchair), and your computer screen should be at eye level, i.e., so that you don’t need to bend to see the screen clearly.
Eliminate food that makes you feel uncomfortable:
This covers the entire gamut of advice regarding eating healthy at work. No matter how strong the attraction towards unhealthy junk food in the office canteen or friendly neighbourhood fast-food cafe, you do realize that certain foods just make you feel sick.
Fried, cheesy, greasy, fattening, salty, sugar-heavy food and drink; these are all foods that leave you bloated, gassy, stuffed and plain unhappy. This could also include lunch debacles like yogurt that warms up and continues to ferment, eventually making you feel bloated when you eat it. It could also include home-cooked food that’s not conducive to packing and storing, like ghee-heavy dal or cereal-loaded tiffins. Identify these foods and arrive at your work comfort foods through the process of elimination.
Be active – use your phone calls for brisk walks and off-the-chair time
This is the simplest stay-fit-at-work advice you’ll ever get. What it boils down to is just any excuse to get off your office chair. Got a phone call? Walk around or stand up. Have an informal gathering or meeting? Remain standing for the entire duration. Need to call a colleague? Walk over to his or her desk instead of using instant messaging. Need to re-fill you water bottle? Walk over to the water cooler instead of asking housekeeping to do the job.
Stretch, walk, do a couple of quick lunges, (maybe a couple of push ups, if you have a cubicle), but get active.
Rely on to-do lists – yes this is related to fitness
To-do lists are a wonderful way to tell your mind and body that you have done what you were supposed to do at work. Don’t let unnecessary gossip sessions, lengthy lunch and tea-time breaks, obsessive tweeting, or Facebook stalking eat into your productive time.
Lists will ensure that you value all that unhealthy sitting down. Lists will also keep you mentally proactive and this goes a long way in disciplining your mind in following effective fitness habits in the office. Attach fitness to-do actions against each job/task completion. Finished that powerpoint presentation? Take a 5 minute walk while discussing the next project over the phone. Finished writing another article? Go refill your water bottle and get started on the second liter for the day.
Avoid smoke breaks
If this is an addiction for you, then replace with other strong flavours. It’s a well-known fact that most business decisions happen over smoke-breaks or unhealthy food and drink. Luckily, this cycle seems to be breaking. Some offices have completely banned smoking within office premises, but some others can only restrict this ban to the building and not the grounds.
This is where your lists and other replacement-habits come in. When you see how much work you need to complete, you’ll be motivated to avoid wasting time with smoke breaks. When you taste that delicious, strong cup of coffee, you might even resist the urge to light one. However, this is a tough cycle to break and one that you can only fight alone. Befriending non-smokers is a good way to start.
Maintain office hygiene
Don’t wait for the HR department to initiate desk and workstation hygiene. Since you spend most of your day in the office, you need to ensure that everything you touch is clean. Wipe your keyboard, armchair rests, desk top and screen often. Ensure that the water bottle you drink from everyday is rinsed at least once a week.
Maintain a steady supply of hand-wash, tissue, lotion and other hygiene-related goods at work. If you eat at the office canteen, insist that the canteen staff wear gloves and caps. If you find any issues with eating utensils, bring it to your administration staff’s attention.
Pack and carry at least one nutritious meal from home
Well meaning advice will instruct you to carry mini-meals to work – made up of snacks for different times of the day. To attempt all 4-5 such mini-meals might be daunting. If you feel unable to do this, ensure that you pack and carry at least one nutritious meal from home to the office.
Carrying a healthy home-cooked meal will add many health benefits to your day. In fact, if you use this meal for lunch, you can get away with a couple of not-so-healthy snacks in the mid-day or mid-evening eating times.
Be proactive about avoiding stress in everyday office life
Stress comes disguised in many avatars –
-It can be that promotion you’ve always wanted,
-It can be that new role you must undertake so that the company sees your commitment,
-It can be a short-staffed department that likes to call itself nimble,
-It can be office gossip mongers who like to form clannish groups,
-It can be a boss who likes to palm off all work to subordinates,
-It can be denied leave of absence even when you deserve it,
-It can be cloaked in colleague incompetence,
-It can be your inability to say No.
Stress affects fitness quite drastically. It interferes with sleep, heightens your body’s stress-response by way of hormonal imbalance, causes emotional cravings for unhealthy food, and puts your mind off healthy pursuits. Learning to say no and accepting, rather – forming, limits in the day’s assigned duties is important. Stay in control of your work day and you’ll be able to free your mind of unnecessary obstacles and practice a fitness-first lifestyle.
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