Work it out: six ways to a healthier nine-to-five you

For some of us work can get in the way of working out. But what if you could combine the both? Here are six ways you can strive towards a better working you.

1. Become an active commuter

For many of us, commuting to work is a necessary evil, and it’s not always good for our health. A US study suggests that people with long commutes may end up with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) and blood pressure levels, putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. 

So, what can you do? Cycling or walking to work can be excellent options , but if this isn’t practical, try getting off the bus or train a few stops earlier and walking the rest of the way. Or, if you need to drive, make sure you take a walk or try and fit in some exercise during the day. Why not try having a walking meeting?

2. Go ergonomic

If you work at a desk, it’s important to have your workstation set up properly.

Try the following:

  • Sit facing your computer with your monitor at least an arm’s length away and your eyes in line with the top third of the screen.
  • When you type, keep your arms at right angles and wrists in line with your forearms.
  • Keep your mouse close to your keyboard and support your arm on the desk when using it.
  • Make sure your seat is properly adjusted and your backrest gives you good lumbar support.
  • Keep your knees at right angles and make sure your feet are flat on the ground or on a footrest if your feet don’t reach the floor.
  • Take regular breaks from your screen.  

3. Work smarter

It can be hard to settle back into work after the holidays, but this clever work hack might help. 

The Pomodoro Technique involves structuring your work in 25-minute sessions, each separated by a five-minute break (you set a timer to remind yourself). During the break, take a walk, meditate briefly, or do something to help you relax, such as abdominal breathing or some gentle stretching, then start again. The payoffs for taking regular breaks can include sometimes making it easier to focus on the task at hand and helping to relieve muscle fatigue and eyestrain. 

4. Go easy on the caffeine

Much has been written about the possible health benefits of coffee and so long as you consume it wisely, it can help you feel refreshed and focused. However, too much can raise stress levels – but how much is too much ? 

400mg a day of caffeine is generally considered an acceptable dose but your individual reaction will depend on a range of factors. A cup of instant coffee contains 60-100mg of caffeine, while espresso-based coffees contain 90-200mg  This means two lattes could see you hitting your limit.  So enjoy coffee in moderation. 

5. Take a mini yoga break

Feeling stiff from sitting down? Try these two office yoga poses from the Health Plus Program at Vanderbilt University in the US (repeat each pose three to four times):

Forward fold

Sitting in your desk chair with feet shoulder width apart, lean forward, as if to touch your toes. Take a few deep breaths and hold for 10-30 seconds. Return to a seated upright position.

Wrist stretch

Standing at your desk with feet shoulder width apart, place both hands palms down on the desk with fingers pointing towards your body. Hold for 10-30 seconds. 

Remember to work within any physical limitations – modify or skip positions that are too difficult or are painful.

6. Liven up your lunch

If you suffer from an energy slump mid-afternoon, avoid eating too many carbs at lunchtime, as this can cause a spike in your blood glucose followed by a dip.  A light lunch including fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, protein and some fruit and healthy fats, such as avocado, can help to keep you energised. It can also be good to get out in your lunch break for a walk as this can help increase alertness and cognitive function – even 10 minutes three times a day can help.
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