There are no end of excuses we can all make about why we don’t treat our bodies better; we don’t have time, we’re too tired, gyms are too expensive, chocolate cake is too delicious. The list goes on. But there’s no better time than World Health Day to send those excuses packing.
Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, and since it’s not always where we’d choose to be, it can be easy to develop bad habits there. Our working environment plays a huge role in our health and wellbeing so, if changes are going to be made, it’s an ideal place to start.
- Watch your back.
In 2013 somewhere in the region of 30.6 million working days were lost as a direct result of work-related back, neck and muscle pain. The main culprit tends to be poor posture, perhaps combined with an awkward twisting or stretching movement (think bending from an office chair down to a low filing cabinet drawer, or twisting to a printer tray). As well as staying active (see below), you might want to pay some attention to your posture and your position in relation to your computer. Slouching and hunching are common pitfalls for office workers but core-strengthening exercises will help to undo the damage, as well as help your body feel more comfortable in an upright sitting position.
- Keep on moving.
Regular movement can help your body protect itself from the sedentary nature of office work. It’s important to stand up and move around at least once every hour, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. As well as giving your body a boost, it’ll give your brain a break too. And if you tend to get caught up in things at your desk, as most of us do from time to time, why not set an alarm on your phone telling you to take a quick walk each hour, just until you get into the habit? Experts recommend getting about 30 minutes of activity per day; it makes the world of difference in keeping your muscles limber and healthy.
- Don’t underestimate stress.
Work involves pressure. That’s a fact of life. But knowing how to deal with it in a way that works for you is the trick to staying on top of that pressure. A quick win can be learning how to say ‘no’ to people. Obviously you have to be reasonable – especially when you’re working as part of a team – but by taking on too much you could end up doing nothing well, so it’s worth asserting yourself. The physical signs of stress; low energy, headaches, an upset stomach, insomnia and frequent colds, can be your body warning you that you’re overstretching yourself.
- You are what you eat.
When you’re at work it’s tempting to alleviate stress and monotony with snacks and comfort food. Taking a healthy packed lunch, and fruit and nuts to snack on, can help you resist the temptation of unhealthy canteens and vending machines, and save a bit of money while you’re at it. When you’re swept up in work it’s also easy to forget to stay hydrated, either by not drinking enough water or having one too many coffees. This can lead to headaches and sluggishness, after all, that coffee buzz never lasts as long as you’d like!
Five quick wins for staying active at work:
- Make your commute count by cycling or walking, or if you take the train or bus, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Rather than calling someone in your office or building, walk over and chat face to face.
- Skip the lift or escalator in favour of the stairs, your heart will thank you for it in the long run.
- If you need to brainstorm or discuss a project with a colleague, take a walk to do it, you’ll be giving your body a boost and freeing up thought processes too.
- Don’t use your lunch break to eat ‘al desko’, instead find a local yoga class, swimming pool or gym to blow away the cobwebs.
Last modified: April 5, 2017