Standing Desks and 5 Other Tips for a Healthy Workday!

Since many of us spend most of our waking hours at the office, it’s so important to try to incorporate some healthy habits. I work in a cubicle all day and that can be really physically and mentally draining. Here I’m sharing a few of the things I do for a healthy workday.

cyclist

1. Active Commuting:  I ride my bike everyday and it saves me about 20 minutes and a lot of hassle on public transit. Rather than arriving to work frustrated and often late, I feel energized and happy. I actually look forward to hopping on my bike in the morning, and my bike commute is often the best part of my day. If possible, walk or bike to work. This is the easiest way to get consistent activity into your week.

When it’s very hot out, yes, I do get hot and sweaty, which I know is the main reason most people don’t want to do this. But I bring a change of clothes, wash my face once I get to work and do my make up there. In a very formal work environment, this might not fly, but at my office it’s no problem.

I know this isn’t feasible if you have a long commute, but you can always get off the subway a stop or two early or park a few blocks away and get a short walk in before you start your day. Also, when you get to work, take the stairs! I work on the 17th floor, so I usually pass on this one, but some of my co-workers (and my boss!) actually take breaks here and there to trek down and back up the stairs.

2. Nutritious Meals: This is a major one. If I’m buying my lunch, I’m much more likely to go for a quick, convenient and often unhealthy option. Bringing my own food is always healthier and definitely cheaper than buying my lunch. I usually try to make extra when I’m cooking dinner, and then I pack my leftovers into a lunch container right away. That way I don’t need to scramble to put my lunch together in the morning. I also often make a large salad at the beginning of the week, and that’s easy to throw into a container before I head to work throughout the week. Try some of these salads!

I also always make sure to have at least 2 or 3 snacks so that I’m not tempted to go grab a muffin in the mid-afternoon out of hunger or boredom. I usually bring a banana, which I eat as a mid-morning snack, and then, for the afternoon, when I’m typically feeling more snack-y, I like to bring foods like grapes, nuts, and raw chopped veggies. Basically, I go for foods that are going to take a while to eat.

Stock a drawer with healthy snacks and keep things like salad dressings and condiments in the fridge at work, so that you have everything you need.

3. Healthy Breaks: It is so important to take breaks throughout the workday. And the busier you are, the more you need those breaks! I try to take a little break at least every hour. I drink a lot of water, so I usually need to take a washroom break anyway. I take the long way around the office and stretch my legs a little. These breaks help me stay productive by relieving fatigue, and these breaks often provide me with a little fresh perspective when I return to my work.

If you stare at a computer screen all day, go look through a window now and then and try to look out as far as you can. It will help prevent headaches and fatigue that come along with working at a computer for hours.

4. Office Yoga: You don’t need to roll out the yoga mat to get a few revitalizing stretches in. You don’t even need to get out of your seat. Try some simple stretches like a seated cat-cow or a spinal twist. Check out more office yoga poses HERE. Put a couple reminders into your calendar, so that you make sure to stretch throughout the day.

5. Lunch Hour Activities: My workplace is partnered up with a nearby hospital, so we’re able to take advantage of their group exercise programs. I try to go to pilates every Wednesday along with a few of my co-workers. There are also organized running and walking clubs that can help get you motivated and hold you to your commitment. But there’s no need to break a sweat. Grab a tea and take a walk around the block, or climb a few flights of stairs. Another great option? Schedule walking meetings with co-workers if you have business that can be discussed on the go.

6. Standing Desks: Did you know that sitting can have really horrible effects on your health even if you get lots of exercise outside of work? Getting a standing desk was the best thing I ever did for both my health and my productivity at work. I used to carry so much tension in my neck and shoulders from being hunched over my keyboard all day.

I read about standing desks online a few years ago, and I rigged up a makeshift standing desk using paper boxes. My co-workers thought I was a little crazy and the Health & Safety folks weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but I immediately started noticing positive effects. Yes, my feet and legs got sore at the beginning, but at first I alternated between standing and sitting throughout the day, and eventually I became able to stand without any discomfort at all. All that painful tension in my neck and shoulders disappeared.

standing-desk-illustrationA year later, facilities managed to accommodate my request to raise a section of my desk, and soon enough, three other people requested the same! It was no problem since our desks were already modular and we were able to raise just a single section. We’ve all been using our standing desks for nearly a year now and we all love it. Usually I stand all morning, sit for a little while after lunch, and then stand again in the mid-afternoon when I find myself getting sleepy.

Using my standing desk helps keep me alert throughout the day and the biggest health benefit is that, since I’m already up, it makes me much more likely to go for a short walk to talk to a co-worker rather than IM or email, fill up my water bottle or do some stretching. Plus I can do toe raises, standing abs and other mini-workouts throughout the day.

Do you work in an office environment? What are your tips for a healthy workday?

8 Comments

  1. Jill, these ideas are great. A few people in my office have the stand up desks and seem to love them. I try to stretch and get up often to walk around. It sure can be exhausting sitting all day lol! Sometimes I feel like it just makes me more lazy if I just sit at my desk all day and forget to get up.

    • Yeah, sitting all day definitely makes me more lazy and tired. When I’d get home, I’d be exhausted even though I didn’t do anything at all! The stand up desk plus the bike ride definitely help me feel energized by the time I get home so that I’m able to do a lot more than slump on the couch (well, not right away at least!) 🙂

    • For sure! I love that they’re catching on, so hopefully soon more and more offices will accommodate them. I know that one issue is that for people in cubicles, if you are standing you might be looking over into someone else’s cubicle which is kinda awkward. But there are easy fixes and the payoffs could be huge.

  2. Oh how I dread working in an office all day. The fluorescent lights are so draining. My tips are to keep a drawer full of snacks for energy (I love dark organic chocolate), mason jars full of staple items (goji berries, flax, etc) and some Rooibus tea with almond milk. I also make an Acai Power Smoothie for the 3:30pm slump time. The stand up desk sounds interesting and I will have to check it out:)

    • I go through phases with tea where I drink it every afternoon and then don’t have a cup for weeks or months. I have a few David’s Tea gift cards so I should go pick out some fun flavours. A good tea with almond milk can feel like such an indulgent treat.

Leave a Reply