There’s no question that the workplace influences how, when and why we eat. We spend a great deal of time there, and, in most offices, doughnuts, pizza, sodas and candy bowls aren’t much farther than an arm’s reach.
Consuming unhealthy foods and lack of physical activity during your workday can lead to weight gain and health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol and diabetes. The solution? Changing your eating and exercise habits at work can help improve your health, and can even position you as a champion of workplace wellness in your company.
Here are some steps that everyone from C-level executives to employees can take toward workplace health:
Pack healthy snacks to help you avoid the vending machine. Apples, bananas and other fruits are inexpensive and portable. Pair a piece with 1.5 ounces of unsalted nuts, and you’ll have a satisfying, sweet and crunchy snack. Just be careful not to overdo it as nuts tend to be high in calories. Other healthy ideas include low-fat or fat-free unsweetened yogurt, hummus, carrots and celery sticks and unsalted rice cakes. If you tend to struggle controlling your portions, divvy up your snacks into single-serving-sized bags ahead of time so you don’t overindulge.
Check out the American Heart Association’s Virtual Snack Machine for more workplace snacking ideas.
Avoid the soda machine
Regular soda is packed with sugar and empty calories. Instead, head for the water cooler or opt for unsweetened herbal tea.
Celebrate the healthier way
Pizza parties and donuts aren’t the only ways to celebrate at work. Group lunches really can be heart-healthy. Organize an office salad bar and ask everyone to each bring a different salad ingredient. Or plan a smoothie bar, requesting that your colleagues bring in their favorite fruit to add to low-fat, unsweetened yogurt. If you’re going out for lunch, skip the fast food and pick a place with tempting salad options. Or consider celebrating without food. Go on a field trip or engage in another rewarding group activity.
Take a walk
Falling asleep at the computer? Tempted by the chips in the snack machine? Take a walk. The benefits of regular brisk walking are a great way to combat high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Plus, it can help stave off cravings for unhealthy snacks, perk you up from an afternoon lull and give you time to catch up with your colleagues.
In some offices, it can be a little too easy to keep that bottomless cup of coffee filled throughout the day. While one to two cups of coffee a day doesn’t seem to be harmful, excess caffeine, whether it’s from coffee or energy drinks, could be bad for your health. Make sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking enough water, eating balanced meals and regularly exercising. The result will be a natural level of energy that might surprise you. Still craving that afternoon cup? Have a glass of water and a piece of fruit.
Participate in a worksite wellness program
Across the country, businesses are seeing value in worksite wellness programs. These programs run the gamut, and can include weight loss competitions, gym memberships, financial incentives, behavioral intervention programs, reducing stress and more. The programs help create a culture of support and accountability—and sometimes even friendly competition—driving down health costs and helping employees be their best. The American Heart Association provides a free, online Activity Tracker, an easy way for companies to set up worksite wellness challenges.
Let your office double as your gym
It’s surprising how easily that office chair can transform into a piece of workout equipment. Slip small exercises into your daily routine with:
- dips using your chair and desk
- lunges down the hall
- intervals on the stairs
- push ups,
- or whatever else you can fit in
You can also purchase exercise equipment specifically intended for the office that lets you workout at work. By dividing your workouts into 10-minute intervals, it doesn’t take long to reach the recommended 150 minutes per week.