Five habits to keep you healthy at work

If you’ve been glued to your office chair for hours and you’re feeling stressed because you skipped lunch, it’s time to make a few adjustments. By adopting just a handful of healthy habits, you could transform your working day and improve your quality of life. Here’s how.

1.Sit for shorter periods

Black and Gray Photo of Person in Front of Computer Monitor

Obesity, type two diabetes and even cancer are a few of the risks you run if you spend hours sitting at a desk, according to the NHS. Sitting still for long periods slows your metabolism, affecting your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Breaking down body fat also becomes harder.

To combat this effect, The Start Active, Stay Active report recommends breaking up periods of inactivity with short bursts of activity. These only need to last for a couple of minutes, so why not use your break to go and chat to a colleague instead of just emailing them?


2.Perfect your posture

Free stock photo of city, person, woman, buildings

A certain amount of sitting is unavoidable, particularly if you work in an office. However, when you do need to sit down, make sure you’re doing it properly. If you’re working at a computer screen, adjust your seat so that your eyes line up with the top of the screen. If the screen is too low, you risk causing neck and back ache. Try not to crane your neck forwards while you work.

The next step is to ensure that your wrists and forearms are straight. There needs to be a gap of about 4-6 inches at the front of your desk, so that you can rest your wrists. As you type, keep your arms bent in an L shape and your elbows against your sides. Ensure that your mouse, phone and other equipment is within easy reach to avoid straining.

Finally, check that your thighs are at right angles to your body or sloping downward just a little. Your feet should be planted firmly on the floor or a footrest.

Simple yoga exercises are a great way to improve your posture. Practise regularly at home and you’ll find that you become more aware of how you’re sitting at work. If you start to slouch, you’ll notice immediately. Don’t have the time or money to get to a class? Why not try the free Yoga With Adrienne sessions available on YouTube?


3.Add extra exercise

Free stock photo of city, businessman, fashion, man

Recent research has shown that by doing an hour of exercise a day, it’s possible to combat the effects of sitting still for long periods of time. So whether it’s taking the stairs, cycling to work, getting off the bus early or going for a walk after lunch, try and add as much activity as you can to your working day.

Do you drift off in afternoon meetings? Why not ask your employer if they’d consider setting up a few walking meetings? Public health England’s Duncan Selbie recently advised companies to:

“Move more; get up and about — walking meetings. I don’t just mean in the office, go out for a walk, get some fresh air for a meeting. We are very keen on short bursts of energy.”


4.Eat and drink

Clear Drinking Glass

Whether you prefer sushi, salads or hearty soups, preparing and eating a proper lunch will keep your energy levels up and increase your productivity. Try and include some protein packed lean meat, eggs, beans or nuts and a serving of vegetables or salad. Oily fish is also an excellent choice, as several studies have shown that supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil can boost concentration.

If your workplace is prone to providing an endless supply of cakes and sugary snacks, bring a tasty alternative so that you don’t feel deprived.  Seeds, dried fruit, nuts and oat cakes make ideal substitutes. You could even treat yourself to a little dark chocolate.

Staying hydrated is also important. Sipping from a bottle of water on your desk could help to prevent that afternoon slump and stave off hunger. If you’re not keen on plain water, the NHS Live Well website suggests adding a slice of lemon, some sugar free squash or a little fruit juice for flavour. Avoid drinking too much coffee and tea as they can have a diuretic effect and swap sugary powdered sachets for herbal teas.


5.Banish bugs

Brown and White Bear Plush Toy

At this time of year, offices are full of people coughing and sneezing. To reduce your chances of succumbing to the latest virus, get into the habit of giving your keyboard and desk a weekly wipe down with antibacterial wipes.  If you use a headset, clean it regularly and never share it with other people. Finally, wash your hands or apply some antibacterial gel before you tuck into lunch.

Boosting your immune system is another way to battle the bugs. Eat plenty of garlic, onions, oregano and thyme, as these are all naturally antimicrobial, supporting the good bacteria in your gut. If there’s a sore throat doing the rounds, try drinking hot water infused with fresh lemon, ginger and rosemary.

With more than 40% of workers suffering from stress, it’s also important to take care of your mental health. So if you’re constantly feeling irritable, anxious, tearful or unable to focus, make sure you talk to family, friends, colleagues and your employer to get the support you need.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by work, the mental health charity mind  recommends focusing on one task at a time. They also stress the importance of taking short breaks, enjoying outside interests and connecting with friends you trust.  Developing an end of day routine can also help you to switch off properly.

So the next time you find yourself slouching on your chair or drifting off at your desk, don’t reach for a tempting treat. With a few simple tweaks to the way you work, you’ll feel healthier and happier at work and at home

Published by Anna Whitehouse

Copywriter and journalist with a side serving of poetry

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