By: Lauren Charley

Working a full-time desk job generally means working eight hours a day, five days a week; not to mention the additional time we spend working late nights with our coworkers to meet deadlines over take-out Chicken Chow Mein. Plus there is usually the excruciating and tedious time we spend commuting to our occupations, arriving home barely in time to pop a Swanson’s TV dinner into the microwave. This doesn’t leave us with much free time to pamper ourselves or engage in physical activity. However, there are ways to sneak in fitness by utilizing both those free hours outside our jobs and the time we spend in the workplace!

Staying in Shape on the Job
There are many tricks available to those of us wanting to burn extra calories in any way we can, even during the work day. Many workplaces encourage employees to keep fit by providing them with options such as standing desks, balance ball chairs, or supporting the idea of keeping a yoga mat in the office for short breaks to relieve mental stress and physical tension.

Pedometer
Simply walking more can do wonders to our waistline. Many men’s and women’s health magazines recommend using a pedometer to track the number of steps we take on a daily basis. Physically seeing the amount of steps we take in a day challenges us to increase this number daily by getting up and moving around, or choosing longer ways to get around our office. Instead of seeking the closest parking spot to the door, select a space further away from the entrance, and don’t be afraid to walk at a brisk pace to get your heart rate going. Often these pedometers will also display a count of how many calories you burn, providing even more of an incentive to keep stepping.

Balance Ball Chairs
These incredible chairs are intended to alleviate the aching back, legs, arm, and neck discomfort often associated with hours of desk work. The chair helps to relieve pain and promote proper spinal alignment, posture, and an overall healthier well-being; it is even rumoured to be the secret of some to a strong core. In addition to supporting a proper posture, the ball can be removed from the adjustable frame and used as a regular balance ball. Depending on how comfortable you feel working out in front of your team mates, this is a great way to utilize half of your lunch hour by engaging in ball workouts to build muscle and even increase cardio strenght.

Standing Desk
Standing desks have regained their popularity in recent years, after once being a common feature in the offices and homes of the wealthy during the 18th and 19th centuries. There are several health benefits associated with standing when compared to sitting, which include burning an average of 50 calories more per hour, a decrease in metabolic problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and even a correlation with a prolonged lifespan. Many doctors discourage sitting for extended periods of time, which is why an adjustable standing desk suits the needs for seated work, in order to give the option to sit as well.

 

Staying in Shape outside the Office
Many companies offer their employees discounted rates or even free memberships to several gyms in the region. White Oaks Resort and Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake works with several local businesses to provide these incentives to their employees through customized wellness plans. The resort also offers a wellness plan to all of their full-time and part-time staff, offering each team member a free membership to The Club at White Oaks to use the fitness facilities.

The Club at White Oaks also caters to the typical “9-5” employee by offering a diverse array of programming, many of their classes scheduled in the early morning between 6 and 7am. “Lots of research shows that working out early in the day is very beneficial to burning more calories during the day (so weight loss is more achievable) but it also boosts your mood, clears your head and makes you more “ready” to tackle the stress of your day,” says Janice Hutton, Fitness Director and Club Co-Manager at The Club at White Oaks. Popular fitness classes are also offered over the lunch hour, and in the evenings for people on their way home from work, such as yoga, Pilates, spinning, boot camp, and 30-minute group fitness.

Staying in Shape at Home – 7 Minute Workout
According to an article published in the New York Times, a study showed that regular seven minute workouts may be enough to stay in shape. The study, which was published in The American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal in 2013, featured a high-intensity workout which can be done using your own body weight. It showed that when you work out close to your maximum capacity with resistance for a short time, you can change your muscles and reap the same benefits as a few hours of running. The only piece of equipment required is a chair to do the 12 exercises in the routine, for 30-seconds each, with only 10 second breaks in between.
This revolutionary workout includes the following moves, to be done for at least 15 repetitions each:

1. Jumping jacks
2. Wall sit
3. Push-up
4. Abdominal crunch core
5. Step-up onto chair
6. Squat
7. Triceps dip on chair
8. Plank
9. High knees/running in place
10. Lunge
11. Push-up and rotation
12. Side plank

With a workout that can be completed in only seven minutes, there is no excuse for the full-time employee to slack on their fitness! Be sure, however, to only challenge yourself to your own potential, and not over-do it.

Easy, Healthy Lunch Ideas
[box type=”shadow” ]Creative Lunch Tip:
Leftovers Salad

A great way to practice portion control and make a quick and simple lunch for work is to save half of those large restaurant portions from dinner, and turn it into a salad! Instead of eating beyond the point of satisfaction, save a fair portion of your large cut of steak, bowl of pasta, or even your Chinese take-away, throw it on a bed of lettuce with some extra veggies and eat it cold! [/box]

A healthy lunch is a balanced lunch, and includes a mix of lean protein, whole grains, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, and of course, fruits and vegetables. Protein and carbohydrates especially will help keep your hunger curbed, and will more likely  assist you to resist snacking on treats mid-afternoon. Nutritious lunches will help you stay on task and provide you with the energy you need to get through the work day.

Healthy Lunch Ideas:
Chili-Spiced Salmon Salad
Over a bed of romaine lettuce, add one serving of canned, chili-spiced salmon along with avocado, grapefruit, onions, beets, and a small handful of pistachios.

Berry Goat-Cheese Salad
When cooking grilled chicken at dinner, cook an extra chicken breast for the next day’s lunch. Cut the chicken into thin strips and add to a bed of spinach with strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and a few pecans.

Chicken Panini
On a thin, whole wheat bun, layer sliced chicken, black forest ham and a slice of Swiss cheese. Toast on a grill or in a toaster-oven if possible, and serve with 30ml of marinara sauce for dipping.

The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health
There is no doubt that exercise has significant benefits on mental health. Our physical well-being plays an important role in our emotional well-being, as the two have shown positive correlations in many scientific studies. Participation in regular physical activity has shown to increase self-esteem and reduce both stress and anxiety. It is believed by medical professionals that pleasant feelings come from engaging in moderately challenging physical activities such as walking, dancing, or even hobbies like gardening. It is important that individuals go at their own pace when participating in these activities, however, as increased tension from others, such as a physical trainers or coaches, can increase stress and therefore put you in a worse mood than before. Exercise provides many opportunities to challenge yourself and feel accomplished when obtaining the goals you set for yourself. These goals, however, should always be obtainable, resulting in a feeling of success when you obtain them.

Sources:
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/lets-get-physical-report.pdf

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/lunch-ideas

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/05/13/the-7-minute-workout-to-get-in-shape-fast/

http://www.menshealth.com/techlust/standing-desk

http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/should-you-replace-your-office-chair-stability-ball