Life Beyond Work – Fitness
Deskbound and desperate? The life of a lawyer is all about being at your desk, sitting down at your computer. Our bodies are simply not designed to spend long periods of time seated, and as a result, our health suffers. It’s an increasing problem, advances in technology mean we don’t need to move around as much for work, but we do if we want to stay fit and well.
As long as we exist in a world of email, IM, and video conferencing, the problem is only going to get worse. We’re moving less, eating more, and getting bigger. Fact. In an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010, Elin Ekblom-Bak of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences reported, “After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals. The body’s genes regulating the amount of glucose and fat begin to shut down”. Another study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that workers who spend ten years or more in a sedentary job have almost double the risk of getting bowel cancer.
It’s worrying. But we can do something about it. We’re eating more food and taking in more energy than we are burning off. Our forefathers may have toiled in the fields and walked 5 miles to work and back – but you and me – we’re sitting down 5 days week sending e-mail.
- The recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 for women, and 2,500 for men
- Factors that influence energy intake include portion size, energy density and the number of meals, snacks and drinks consumed each day
- We should be doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) 5 days a week.
(source: NHS Choices)
So, what can we do about it?
Good health is about lifestyle change. It means slowly altering your daily routine so that a healthier way of living becomes normal – and is not considered to be a ‘diet’ or ‘exercise fad’. So when you spend at least 8 hours a day in the office, and a few hours sat on public transport or in the car commuting, how on earth can you achieve that change?
The magic phrase is ‘cardiovascular exercise’. It’s all about the heart. We need to give it a bit of a surge every day. If we don’t, it gets tired and dull and could stop working properly, and you will too. The ‘30 minutes of exercise a day’ is still the mantra supported by governments and the British Heart Foundation.
The ideal way is to adopt a quiet, subtle but effective fitness routine to keep you fit and help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, whilst you do your online deskjob. Reducing the biscuits and crisps you snack on at your desk is a good start. They’re high carbs and high fat. Choose protein rich nibbles a few times a week instead: cheese, ham, crabsticks or nuts, for example.
The obvious one might be to walk or bicycle to work. Too far? Too impractical with all you have to carry? OK – then here’s our Top 10 tips to get fit at work:
- Park the car at the far end of the car park. Even if it’s only another 40 metres, that’s 80 metres a day, 400 a week, 1,600 metres walked a month. That’s over one and a half kilometres every month (or 1 mile!). That means just by parking your car a bit further from the work entrance, you could burn up to 240 calories a month or – 2,880 calories burned a year
- Are you guilty of emailing people in the office? Stop. Get up and walk across the room and – speak to them instead! You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes over time to your energy uptake, and you may even start a new ‘speak to each other for real’ craze in the office.
- It’s obvious and often said but true – give the lift a miss and use the stairs. OK, the first day you’ll feel like your legs have turned to jelly, but by day 5 you’ll be taking the steps 2 at a time.
- Have meetings standing up. Really! Not only will you burn more calories, you’ll find the meetings are quicker too, and save you time. It’s a classic technique used by forward thinking businesses. If you’re standing up, you get to the point more quickly, don’t waffle, you won’t get bored and munch on biscuits. You burn more calories standing up than sitting down.
- Walk around more in the office – fetch your own paper for the copier, offer to get drinks for others, put the post tray on the other side of the room and walk to it, and get up at every opportunity. As 2,000 steps burns about 100 calories, you could lose half a stone in just 7 weeks by getting off your chair that little bit more.
- Exercise your eyes. Staring at a computer screen for lengths of time at a short distance isn’t good for your eyes. Get up – part of your increased walking ratio – and go to the office window. Give your eyes a workout by looking in the distance and then something close and repeat. It’ll help keep your eyes healthy and help reduce soreness.
- Tighten your bottom and leg muscles without anyone noticing you’re doing it! You can clench your bum and do leg and feet stretching exercises under the desk. Do it while you’re on the phone – just think phone= bum clench.
- Drink water. Most offices have a water dispenser – another excuse to get up for a short pace to drink. Not only will the water help flush out toxins from your body, it will keep you hydrated and alert, and keep those dry office eyes moisturised
- Avoid germs and getting sick. Offices are a breeding ground for nasties – and many staff will come in with a cold sneezing all over the phones and computers and spreading their germs, so you end up ill too. Get some anti-bacterial wipes – or better still – get the boss to supply them – and wipe over the phone, the keyboard, the mouse, and the door handles.
- Sit properly. Two thirds of us will suffer back problems at some stage. Your employer has a duty to provide you with a properly working and adjustable seat, and to show you how to sit properly at your desk for the task you are employed to do. Bad posture can cause a whole list of health issues: headache, shoulder pain, lower and upper back pain, constipation, and aching legs.
If you start now you can take steady, ongoing steps towards a healthier and happier worklife. So what are you waiting for?