Numerous studies show prolonged periods of inactivity like sitting in front of a computer increase your risk of repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and lower-back pain, as well as serious illnesses like breast and colon cancer. With minimal exercise and unhealthy snacking, desk jockeys are more likely to become overweight, too. Here, top experts share tips to help you thrive in an office environment.
Fitness Expert: Sarah Robichaud, coauthor, Working on the Ball (Andrews McMeel, 2006), Toronto
Focus on posture.
Sitting with poor posture in conventional chairs can cause muscle imbalances, overextended spinal curves, shifting vertebrae, and a weakened core. Combat symptoms by sitting on a large exercise ball at your desk for a few hours a day, encouraging your core and back to recruit more muscles to maintain a healthy posture.
Sneak in movement.
Remaining sedentary for extended periods can cause an inactive mind, loss of focus and concentration, and a sluggish metabolism. Always take the stairs, walk to coworkers’ desks rather than sending emails, and power walk to your favorite lunch spot. These small efforts will add up.
Take a breather.
At least every hour, focus on deeply inhaling and exhaling for a few minutes, stretching your arms and shoulders at the same time. Download a free timer, like the one from workrave.org, as a reminder.
Holistic Nutritionist: Jennette Turner, founder, Jennette Turner Natural Foods Education, Minneapolis
Increase morning protein.
Eat high amounts of protein at breakfast (around 20 grams) and limit carbohydrates. Protein makes you feel full longer and decreases the likelihood of snacking on sweets between meals, whereas carbohydrates spike blood sugar levels, causing lethargy later. Within an hour of waking, eat plain Greek yogurt with berries and nuts or two poached eggs with a banana and almond butter.
Get your B12s.
Known to ward off fatigue and weakness, B12 vitamins are particularly essential for logical thinking. B12-rich foods include red meat, eggs, and dairy products. Also consider supplementing with B12.
Eat immunity-boosting fats.
Olive oil, nuts, avocados, coconut, and other foods containing healthy fats help your body absorb vitamins A and E and boost immunity—vital when in close quarters with coworkers. Coconut oil is one of the best sources of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid with antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Substitute unrefined coconut oil for butter: Use it to scramble eggs or to make popcorn for a low-calorie snack.
Workplace therapist: Brandon Smith, founder, theworkplacetherapist.com, Atlanta
Learn to say no.
If you take on too much at work, the likelihood of feeling burned out increases. Reduce weekend work and set aside at least an hour every day to recharge away from electronics.
Manage harmful stress.
Stress is natural, and when you work through stressful periods in your life, you grow. But when stress turns into chronic anxiety, you need healthy strategies to deal with it. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of strength training at least three times per week. Drinking a calming tea, such as chamomile, also can help.
If you are feeling frustrated and run-down at work, strengthen your personal relationships with your friends, family, and significant other. Talking through problems with loved ones helps you unwind and put your everyday work issues in perspective.