Staying healthy when you sit at a desk all day can seem challenging, especially if you have a rigid or busy schedule.
With discouraging headlines in the media about desk jobs being as harmful to health as smoking, you more than ever are probably looking for solutions to stay healthy while still killin’ it at the workplace.
As someone who’s worked a corporate desk job for the last 7 years, I’m here to tell you it IS possible to stay healthy even with a desk job. It all comes down to small daily choices and a little bit of effort on your part, but it’s totally doable!
Here are my top 8 tips to stay healthy when you have a desk job.
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How to Stay Healthy When You Have a Desk Job
1. Focus on your nutrition.
When you work full time, there are simply some things you just won’t have time for or be able to control. However, the one thing you almost always have control over is what you eat.
I’m not saying you need to go on some crazy strict diet. Not at all! What I am saying is that you pay a little more attention to what you are fueling your body with. Here are some questions you might ask yourself:
- Am I getting at least 5 servings of whole fruits and non-starchy veggies each day?
- Am I starting off the day with a healthy protein and fiber-filled breakfast?
- Does most of my diet consist of real, whole and healthy foods?
- Am I getting enough water during the day?
- Am I doing my best to limit processed sugar, processed foods, and fast foods?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, maybe pick one or two and try and work on it the next couple weeks. When you’re fueling your body with nutritious and REAL food, you’ll feel better have more energy and perform your best in the workplace.
If healthy options aren’t available at work, spend a little bit of time a couple of days a week preparing healthy lunches and snacks to bring to work. You’ll probably save money and you’ll always have something nourishing to eat!
2. Use your lunch break wisely.
Hopefully, you get some kind of lunch break during your day. If you do, think of how you can use it to boost your health!
To me, my lunch break is almost sacred. I view it as very precious time and I’m pretty selfish about how I spend it. For me, it’s time to workout, stretch, walk, get outside in the sun, and take a mental break from the demands of work.
I rarely go out to eat with friends or co-workers because I know if I don’t use my lunch break to work out, there’s a good chance it won’t happen.
Even if you don’t have much of a lunch break, try and schedule time in your day to get up, move around, and even get outside. The fresh air, sunshine, and change of view can help boost your mood and make you more productive.
3. Avoid office drama or gossip.
I know it’s hard, especially when you have tight co-workers you tell everything to. Or maybe you have REALLY annoying coworkers you just want to complain about.
But here’s the thing, no good comes from participating in office drama or gossip. It can be super harmful to others and only perpetuates a negative attitude within yourself.
You’ll be happier with your job, feel better, and want to work harder when you stay out of the office drama, politics, and negativity.
4. Remember good desk posture.
One of the unfortunate side effects of a desk job is poor, slouchy posture. This can be hard to combat, but with reminders throughout the day and including posture enhancing exercises outside of work, you can totally overcome the desk slouch.
Getting a device that reminds you to sit up straight, or even setting reminders on your phone can help. Good posture will also help you breathe more deeply and better throughout the day which can help you feel less anxious or frustrated.
5. Stand for a few hours a day.
If you’re one of the few lucky people who have access to standing desks at work, USE IT! Standing at work is a great way to keep your energy levels up and reduce sitting time. I have a whole blog post on this subject alone you can read.
If you don’t have access to a standing desk and your employer isn’t willing to get you one or even a small portable one, set a reminder on your phone to stand up every hour or so and stretch at your desk, even if it’s just for a minute or two.
Check out this quick desk stretching sequence for ideas!
6. Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated at work has tons of benefits. Choosing water over other sugary drinks or caffeinated beverages will keep your energy levels stable, reduce brain fog, and boosts your health overall.
You’ll also probably have to get up and walk to the bathroom more often, helping you step away from your desk and get a break. I always take a large, non-plastic refillable water bottle to work and sip on it often. Here’s a cute option from Amazon I love!
7. Include strength training in your routine.
Did you know that as adults we start losing muscle (thanks to sarcopenia) at the very young age of 25? Sadly, sitting all day at work only accelerates the issue.
If you chose to do nothing about it, you may gain weight, lose mobility, and your health will decline. Muscle is LITERALLY the fountain of youth and you should be doing all you can to preserve and build this life-giving tissue.
One of the best ways to build and preserve lean muscle is through strength training. Even if you just pick up the weights two times a week, research shows that that is enough to help us keep and strengthen our muscles. If your goal is to build more muscle, you may need to bump it up to three or four times a week and eat for growth.
Regular strength training, or any kind of exercise, can also help you sleep better at night resulting in less sleepy days at the office. Win-win!
8. Set appropriate boundaries to prevent burnout.
Your mental health matters just as much as your physical health. If you’re constantly bringing work home or being bombarded with emails even when you’re off the clock it may be time to set some appropriate work boundaries to prevent burn out.
This may require a chat with your boss or supervisor or it may just mean turning all email notifications off when you get home after work. As much as you may want to, you can’t work ALL the time nor be productive ALL the time.
You need breaks and time to rest and recharge so you can give our best effort when it counts.
Wrapping it Up
Working full time can be incredibly rewarding but also challenging when you want to stay healthy. Even if you have a desk job, these tips can help you stay healthy, feel your best, and make you a better employee.
Does your company emphasize employee health and wellness? It’s encouraging to see more and more employers invest in their worker’s health through wellness programs or incentives. If your company doesn’t have any of these perks, maybe bring it up to your manager or HR. It’s no secret that healthy employees are happier and more productive!