Sitting is the new smoking. Computer monitors are blinding us. Working long hours will give you a heart attack. Whoa, whoa, whoa. If you paid attention to every study about the health risks of working in an office out there, you’d think that people are dropping left and right at their desks. Fortunately, that's not the case—but what is true is that many people with traditional 9-to-5 schedules lead more sedentary lifestyles because they’re sitting for hours on end. (And let's face it, many of us log far more than eight hours every day.) But that doesn’t mean they’re destined to stay that way—it’s surprisingly easy to stay fit, happy, and healthy at the office. Here are five ideas to get you started.
Don't just sit there
Sitting all day may not be great for you, but before you trade in your swivel chair for a standing desk, know that standing on your feet all day isn’t so fantastic for your body either. Researchers now realize the most beneficial aspect of having a standing desk is that your body is constantly adjusting to find a comfortable position. In other words, it's not the standing itself that's good for you, but the fact that standing forces your body to move around that's beneficial. So standing at your desk for eight hours with awful posture is just as bad as sitting static in your chair. Instead, alternate your stance: sit for 20 minutes, stand for 40 minutes, and walk to the water cooler or bathroom about once an hour.
Perfect your posture
And while you're standing, keep in mind there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. You keep your lower back from aching and even tone your tush by adopting proper posture. First, if you're wearing heels, kick those suckers off; you want to be standing on an even surface. Next, point your toes straight forward and your heels straight behind you, so your feet are parallel. Now pull up your kneecaps and imagine your upper thighs spiraling outward as you lift up through the inner arches of your feet. And voila! You're standing up straight! You'll feel your hips and glutes activate, as well as feeling your lower back release and elongate. It's a subtle but powerful way to improve your posture and lift your posterior.
Chew the fat
Sure, protein is great first thing in the morning, but you should consider loading up on healthy fats instead. Kids who eat omega-3 rich foods performed better in school and had way fewer behavioral issues, suggesting that healthy fats help our brains focus. Pack your breakfast with omega-3s from eggs, flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and even the bagel-topping favorite, lox.
Make every hour happy hour
Make a few more trips to the water cooler—and the coffee machine—each day. The high-powered ACs found in office buildings are more dehydrating than most realize, so keep a glass of water nearby to combat dry skin and eyes. And those unlimited sodas in the communal fridge? Stay away. One 12-once regular Coke will put you over the recommended daily sugar intake limit, and spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. And a daily diet soda isn't any better—studies link regular consumption of artificially sweetened drinks leads to negative effects like depression, fatigue, irritability, and seizures. Probably not worth the energy boost, right? Plus, artificial sugars can cause your body to crave sweets even more—leaving you more likely to reach for a Snickers bar instead of a piece of fruit when that mid-afternoon slump occurs. Fill up on water or get your caffeine kick from coffee, which is proven to protect against heart disease and Alzheimers, or green tea for metabolism-boosting benefits.
Fight your co-workers' (germs)
Working in close quarters for hours on end, we’re bound to end up sharing a lot with our office buddies: phone chargers, headphones, and our thoughts on “The Bachelor.” But the one thing you should put up your guard for? Germs. If you've ever worked in a small department, you know that one bad bug can ground your entire workforce. The average desk has more bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat. Keep sanitizing wipes on hand for regular cleanup to help ward off an office plague. Vitamin C and zinc are the two most effective supplements for boosting immunity and fighting disease—take them regularly to decrease your chances of catching the office plague. Have a private office, or just work with really accepting people? Try this desk workout that you can do in just a few minutes! Photo credit: Alicia Cho