When you say exercise and office in the same sentence, people usually look at you funny. I’m not writing this to tell you to do dips on your desk, or pushups in the walkway. I personally think that this just ticks everyone else off when they have to walk around you to get to the coffee pot.
What I aim to do here is provide you with some options to add a little bit of movement to your day. While some of these ideas may seem like common sense, sometimes it helps when someone else brings them to your attention.
Struggles of the Office
I never really have been in an office setting for more and a couple days at a time, but recently I’ve taken on a role that requires a lot more swivel chair sitting than I would initially hope for. While rewarding in its own fashion, it’s not the most ideal situation for a fitness nut like myself.
Office jobs tend to have you sitting for long periods of time. So much so that my company, along with many others, has implemented a watch tool that records keystrokes and mouse movement. This tool informs the user when they have been working on their computer for too long a time period and suggests they move about when this threshold is reached.
Ideally, you would have a very large office, or work on a campus of some sort and be able to move freely. This is not always the case in the real world and many people are constricted.
Lack of Vitamin D can be a real problem too. I’m not relating this part to fitness but more to mental health. People can actually become more depressed when they lack sunshine and good ol’ Vitamin D. This must be why Seattle is such a bummer all the time (and why you’ll never be the tech capital Seattle). When cooped up in an office all day long, many workers begin to struggle with focusing and often grow weary of their work by the afternoon.
The fluorescent or LED lighting that most offices have installed do not emulate natural light. This is more predominantly the case with LED lights which are mostly of a cool blue tone (much like a hospital or morgue).
General discomfort is the last problem that I personally experience in the office. After sitting and not moving my legs get tight, my back starts to hurt, my eyes hurt, and I begin to develop those afternoon headaches.
I do have solutions to a few of these problems, and I think that doing these few things will most definitely help you be better mentally and physically fit for the office.
Stretching Before, During, and After Work
This may seem a bit goofy but at my last job I would always get caught stretching in the aisle ways. I walked a lot at this job, but sometimes standing all day would begin to take its toll on my muscles. You never really realize all the knots you have buried in your body until you really get a good, deep stretch in mid afternoon.
First, stretch every morning. If you get up and stretch first thing, your shower will feel better, you’ll be more awake almost instantly, and all the tightness from sleeping like a rock for 7-8 hours will disappear. In addition to starting your day off in a physically relaxing, rejuvenating fashion, stretching helps your mental health as well. Usually when I stretch it is a good way to think about what I have going on that day in a laid back manner. It helps me to not stress over little things and I then can organize and plan my day in my head as I stretch.
Lunchtime Stretches! These are my favorite. If you have a little extra space in your office or workplace, I’d suggest stretching out there. However, if you have an outdoor area where you can stretch and soak up some sun that might be a more ideal opportunity. Stretching right after you eat really helps that food settle in your stomach and makes your return to work much more appealing. For some reason stretching right after food always feels better to me.
Mid-afternoon stretching. I also like to get some stretching in when I hit that 2:30-3:00pm tired feeling. I have the pretty standard work schedule so I stay consistent with this time frame. However, if you work unorthodox hours your tired feeling may hit at some other point in the day. Also, if you over consume caffeine in the mornings you might crash sooner rather than later (cut back on the sugary creamers also). I suggest hopping out of your desk area, taking a quick walk around the room, and then do some light stretching to get your blood pumping again.
Lastly, stretch before bed. The importance of this one is pretty self explanatory. I stretch every single night before bed because I generally have been home from the gym for a while and this is precisely when all the tightness hits. Furthermore, I like to be a bit limber before bed so I don’t pull a muscle rolling around while I sleep. Okay… that was a poorly written joke but really I don’t like the super stiff feeling I have in the morning if I don’t stretch properly at night.
Don’t over do this! I’m not suggesting you need to break out into a full on yoga session every five minutes. I’m also not saying that you should burn 10-15 minutes of your work day stretching in the afternoons. A quick 3-5 minute stretch session should get all the big muscle groups appropriately. You’ll feel generally better throughout the day, and save the big stretches for the morning and evening.
I understand that not everyone works in a work environment where they can take a midday stroll or walk outside. With the disappearance of the classic “smoke-break”… thank goodness… we now really have no excuse to get outside throughout the day. This is why I generally try to make it a point to go grab coffee or lunch somewhere within walking distance of my office.
Having this plan going into each day is very helpful. Yes, I know this can become an expensive habit and every frugal website/blog on the internet tells you to cut out that cup of coffee a day or to pack your own lunch. I guess if you have to save the money (something I should do more of) then make it a point to still go for a walk at lunch. Even if you just walk around the block, getting out of the office can rekindle your morning motivation and excite you about pushing through the rest of the day.
One thing that helps me is finding interesting landmarks in your area and visiting those each day. Not everyone works in a super cool location, but if you do this should be extremely simple. Make sure you bring some decent walking shoes to work. There’s no sense in tromping around the sidewalks in brand new high heels girls, and guys I know from personal experience that my dress shoes are not exactly the best for being active.
Add Natural Lighting to Your Workspace
There are many different people out there suggesting you “trick out your cubicle” or something along those lines. Personally I don’t care if my cubicle has bright blue walls, photos, and posters everywhere. It’s a business setting and I am a bit of a minimalist as far as my workspace goes so incorporating new items has to be warranted.
One item that I would deem a warranted item for your workspace is a natural lamp. You can find all sorts of these lamps on Amazon (or by clicking above) that provide some natural light to your workspace. The warmer color bulbs help to put you in a better mood. Not to mention an extra lamp can help you see your work better reducing eye strain and headaches.
I have experience a bit of glare on my computer screens from time to time, but if you adjust your lamp shade or direction a bit it should help knock that down. Also, if you really need to focus on your computer I would suggest getting one of those fancy new style lamps that has an off and on switch.
All of these things combined should contribute to an overall healthy office environment. The solutions I have offered are all things that I personally do to make office work not so monotonous throughout the day. I really suggest trying to incorporate all of these if possible, and if that’s not within your reasonable plan of action then at least try to take on one at a time. I think you’ll be amazed at the result. If I have a personal favorite to suggest, it’s getting stretch happy. Stretching is usually a focal point of my day and gives me something to look forward to as a break in the middle of my afternoon.
All of these things and cutting back on that morning caffeine intake really contribute to a healthy work environment. This definitely helps when it comes to being motivated for the gym in the afternoons as well.
If you have any suggestions on office health shoot me a comment below! I’d love to hear some of your insights or ideas and I’m sure everyone else would really enjoy having some additional information.