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How to stay healthy physically when you work at a desk a lot

Working at a desk can be exhausting, ironically. Sitting all day and focusing on a screen can tire you out. Unfortunately, though, it’s not tiredness from something physically challenging – quite the opposite. In fact, sitting at a desk all day can actually make you less healthy over time. If you are a desk worker, focusing on how to stay healthy is necessary to ensure you’re always able to give life your best effort year after year.

As you look at how to stay healthy, there are a lot of things that you can do. From a mental perspective, there’s some basic mental health first aid. But when it comes to how to stay healthy physically, there are many things you can do that don’t take much time – but have big impact.

Book gym time in your calendar

how to stay healthy: book your gym time in

That’s right – all you have to do is write it down and you’re already more likely to stay healthy. If you have a gym membership (or perhaps a gym in your building / community), book time in your calendar to go. Simply writing down a goal, for example going to the gym, makes you 42 percent more likely to succeed at it. Putting it in your calendar with a set time and date only increases the chances of success. To supercharge this benefit, make the calendar hold recurring so you have it showing up automatically in your calendar.

When it comes to booking things in your calendar, the real focus is feasibility. Simply writing it in the calendar is helpful, but it has to be at a time that you can actually make it work. For example, if you know you have lunch meetings most days, then a lunch workout isn’t feasible for you. Book it in times you can actually get to the gym or do another physical activity like running. 

Take a short walk every 1-2 hours

walking helps you stay healthy

If you’re wondering how to stay healthy and hoping for a secret weapon, it’s walking. A Harvard study found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent – and reduced the risk of dying by 32 percent. People who work in more labour intensive jobs may get to walk throughout their day, but desk jockeys often don’t walk… sometimes at all. There are some people that only walk when they are heading to the bathroom or to get a coffee. Don’t be these people (if you want to stay healthy, that is).

The bonus of walking frequently is that it can help you overcome a mental block at work. So not only are you more physically healthy, you’re more mentally fit as well and can get more done. Talk about a win-win.

Do body weight activity at your desk

do body weight activity at your desk to stay healthy

If you’re already walking but worried about muscle tone (either gaining it or keeping it), try body weight exercises at your desk. Don’t worry, this doesn’t require getting super sweaty. Instead, you do low-intensity body weight exercises frequently throughout the day with low reps each time. Over the course of a whole day, the numbers really add up.

Thinking of how to stay healthy with body weight exercises? Try these every hour you’re sitting at your desk:

  • 5 pushups 
  • 10 body weight squats

You may look a little silly, but you’re adding some much-needed resistance activity into your day. Bonus too is that you get blood flowing, which can help you be more creative and get more done. 

Play in a rec or office league 

play in a rec league with coworkers

If you work in a job that takes over your life, one of the best ways to stop it from taking your health is to play in a recreational (“rec”) or office league with coworkers. Most major cities have recreational sports leagues for every big sport throughout the year, so just google “[Your city name] [preferred sport] rec league” and see what comes up.

On top of health benefits, you get social and work benefits. You get to socialize with coworkers (and sometimes your bosses if they opt to join the league), giving you the chance to continue doing business while also getting more healthy. And, who knows, you may realize you’ve got a secret talent for different sports.  

Take walking meetings

take walking meetings

If walking alone is helpful, then walking with others can be helpful as well. Walking meetings are just as they sound – instead of sitting at a desk for your meeting, you walk. That could be around your office, depending on size, but it’s also a great opportunity to go outside for some fresh air. When you walk during a meeting, you’re of course getting the physical health benefits of walking. But you are also activating the brain differently, leading to more creativity. And, since you’re in a different environment than an office or meeting room, you may find the meeting goes differently as well.

Walking meetings are tough if you have a large group of people or need to look at data, so they tend to be best for one on one or three person meetings that are discussion based. If you need to look at charts and data, book a meeting room. But if you need to talk things over, gain perspectives, and check opinions, go for a walk! 

Work standing up

how to stay healthy: work standing up

If you’re wondering how to stay healthy, standing at your desk is a big one. Even if none of the other ideas work for you – whether that’s not your personal style, you work in a job that won’t allow it, or something else – work standing up. This small change can have huge impact. The average person burns about 50 calories a day standing up to work, which may not sound like much but becomes an average of 12,500 calories a year or 3.5 lbs. Just from standing! Combined with other physical activities, standing at work can get you well on your way to being more healthy.

The additional benefit of working standing up is that you can interact more easily with coworkers if they walk over to you (no more straining your neck to look up when someone comes over). You also get more energy with a standing desk, something helpful for those long days.

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