Staying Fit While Working at Your Desk

Author: R Stell Date: January 12, 2007

Working a desk job can be hazardous to your health. Not only do you tend to gain weight and lose muscle tone from lack of movement and exercise, but you can also develop headaches as neck and back muscles tighten while you read or work at a computer.

An interesting study performed several decades ago found that a secretary changing from a manual typewriter to an electric typewriter would gain 10 pounds in a year, if no other exercise or dietary changes were made. The difference was simply the reduction in calories burned during the year.

This example shows how lack of exercise can cause a significant change in health over time for those who work at a desk.

But there is hope! Making a few simple changes and additions to your daily schedule can make all the difference.

1. Walk at least 15 to 20 minutes a day. Your body doesn't care when or where you walk--just do it! Walk during a break, when going to or returning from work, while at the gym or in the evenings and on weekends in your neighborhood. Or simply take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. When you need to speak with a business associate, don't automatically pick up the phone. Walk over and have a face-to-face conversation. Look for opportunities to get up from your desk and move around.

For an even greater benefit, keep two or three pound ankle weights at your desk and slip them on before you walk. This added weight will burn extra calories and help firm muscles.

Walking burns calories more than sitting, but it's necessary to walk briskly for 15 to 20 minutes in a single period to achieve a cardiovascular workout. Cardiovascular exercise helps the heart, lungs and overall circulation. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety. Consult with your physician or health-care provider before starting a new exercise regimen of any kind.

2. Get up and move/stretch at least every 15 minutes. This will help relieve tight muscles in the neck, back, legs and arms.

3. Sit up straight while working. Don't hunch while at your computer or when reading. This helps alleviate neck and back pain.

4. Keep high-protein snacks handy. Don't get into the habit of quick sugar fixes like candy bars or doughnuts. They'll only cause dips in blood sugar and fatigue after an hour or so. Avoid the company vending machines if they don't offer high-protein options.

5. Add weight resistance to your routine. It's a little-known fact that the body burns up calories even while resting or sleeping in order to maintain basic bodily functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, etc. While the body is resting (sitting on the sofa watching television, talking with family or sitting at your desk at work), muscles burn up considerably more calories than fat, so to keep fit you should undertake some form of weight resistance training two to three times a week. This will add muscle and firm up your entire body, enabling additional calories to be burned during your resting periods. Consult your physician before starting any new health regimen and work with a trainer to design a weight-resistance program suited to your body type and needs.

6. Think healthy when eating. Don't snack while at your desk just because you're bored. Avoid desserts and fatty foods when eating at restaurants. Take your own lunch, when possible, focusing on high-protein foods that will sustain your energy and help you overcome the urge to snack. And don't just automatically eat the treats put out by your company (daily doughnuts or cookies, for instance). Also, don't mindlessly have a piece of cake or other treats during birthday celebrations and holiday parties. Even if your friends and associates say, "just one piece won't hurt," go by your own dietary regime. If you stick to your guns, what you eat won't stick to you.

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