There are many factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Although increased calorie consumption is a big one, another is decreased levels of activity throughout the workday. Years ago, a higher percentage of people had active jobs like farming and factory work. As those numbers have decreased, our waistlines have consequently, increased. So are you doomed to have weight issues because you spend 8-plus hours each day behind a desk? Not necessarily, if you're smart about your choices and how you structure your day.
According to a report from the journal PLoS One, "Eighty percent of jobs, are sedentary or require only light activity. The shift translates to an average decline of about 120 to 140 calories a day in physical activity, closely matching the nation’s steady weight gain over the past five decades." Although we've known for a long time that the number of physically active jobs has declined, this is the first study to quantify how many fewer calories we're burning per day as a result.
Instead of accepting our fate, though, why not fight it! There are plenty of ways to add activity to your workday--here are five of them:
1. Take 5-minute activity breaks throughout the day.
Every hour or two, take a break for a few minutes and get moving with a few squats, a walk around the building or some pushups. In addition to burning calories, this practice increases your energy level, leaving you better prepared to take on the rest of the day's work. If you don't feel comfortable being active at your desk, find a small conference room or lounge area to sneak in a few minutes of exercise.
2. Get up as much as possible.
Walk over to a co-worker's desk to talk to them instead of sending an email, take the stairs to the lunchroom instead of riding the elevator, print your documents at a printer down the hall instead of the one right next to your desk or park your car at the far end of the lot--these simple choices are a great way to add a few minutes of activity here and there, which can add up over time.
3. Pack a healthy lunch and snacks.
It's easy to be tempted by the donuts or candy a co-worker brought in this morning if you're starving and don't have any other snack options. It's also tempting to head out to lunch at the new burrito joint down the street if your lunch choices are limited. Reduce that temptation by packing a healthy lunch and snacks for the workday. It's okay to eat out or indulge in the treats now and then, but you're more likely to stay on track if you've planned your meals in advance.
4. Spend time at your desk standing and/or sitting on a ball.
Although this might not burn tons of calories, it can help with core strength and can help improve posture. Both can also help you stay more alert and focused on your current tasks.
5. Consider starting a healthy lunch or exercise club.
There's a good chance that there are others at your office who want to make better food and lifestye choices and could use support from people trying to do the same thing. You probably have co-workers who would love to get out and walk at lunch, but just need a little push and some friends to make it happen. Having others around you who are trying to make the same healthy decisions creates a good support system for success.
Although some of these tips are common sense, how many of them do you regularly incorporate into your day? If you sit down and think about your day, could there be small changes you could make here and there to add some movement or make healthier food choices?
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