Not to be a total bummer, but there’s a lot about a typical workday that’s not exactly a picture of health: birthday cupcakes in the kitchen, germy keyboards, ergonomically unfriendly work stations … we can go on. But even if you’ve chosen a career that anchors you to a desk all day, you can still make a zillion little choices that can boost your overall health.
Here are everyday habits for the office to make your 9-5 a little healthier.
Take the stairs on your way up. If your office is on the fifth floor, challenge yourself by skipping the lure of the elevator and hitting the steps. FYI, you can burn 100 calories from just 10 minutes of stair-climbing.
Avoid the cake culture. Or the doughnut culture. Or the cookie culture. Offices are notorious for stocking break rooms with glazed donuts and cakes (really, another birthday? Again?). While it’s well and good to have an occasional treat, stick to healthy snacks for your everyday nourishment. That probably means bringing your own healthy snacks to work. Try dried fruit, nuts, whole wheat crackers, or hearty fruits like apples, pears, and oranges.
Move it. Take advantage of every opportunity to get out of your seat and move around. An easy way to work your muscles is the classic calf raise—lifting yourself up onto your toes and back down again—while making phone calls or waiting for your coffee to brew. Even these minimal movements and stretches “can improve blood and nutrient supply to muscles and tissues to help prevent fatigue and discomfort,” says Dena Nader, MD, Regional Medical Director for MedExpress Urgent Care. Or start taking more walking meetings to break up the day’s monotony.
Take a lunch break. Like, an actual break. Working through lunch might feel more productive, but it can hike your stress levels over time or wear down your mental health. Shrug off the peer pressure and allow yourself (and your eyes) to take an actual break. And stay off Facebook as well. “Mindful eating helps to consume as much as your body needs instead of more,” says nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani.
Avoid the siren of the candy jar. No office is complete without the jelly beans or M&Ms, but making those sweets part of your daily habit might affect everything from your waistline to your pearly whites. And let’s be honest, it’s so tough to stick to just one serving.
Give the beans a break. A cup or two of coffee is pretty harmless, but you don’t want to overdo it. Drinking caffeine in the mid to late afternoon can make insomnia more likely come bedtime. Switch to good ol’ water to stay hydrated.
Take five-minute breaks regularly. Yes, even at the end of the day. It’s tempting to “finish strong” by powering through those last two hours, but continue giving yourself breaks or you’ll end the day feeling beat (which means you’ll be more likely to crash on the couch and order in pizza).
Tidy up before taking off. Sure, we all want to shut down our computers and greet the great outdoors at 5 PM, but you’ll start the next day on a better note if you take the time to get organized now. But don’t make your desk too clean. It turns out that a slightly messy desk actually boosts your creativity.