How to Maintain a Work-Health Balance

They say sitting is the new smoking – meaning the sedentary eight hour work days are disastrous for your overall health. Many Americans, myself included, sit in a small cubicle day after day, staring at a computer monitor for hours. After just a few weeks at my full-time job, I already noticed poor lifestyle changes.I was constantly tired, I’d gained a few pounds, my skin was breaking out, there were lines and bags under my eyes, and I caught more colds than normal. I did an in-depth analysis of my lifestyle and what changes I could realistically make and here’s what I discovered.

Invest in a Office Workout

Your cubicle doesn’t have to be anti-health. Invest in a stability ball instead of a desk chair. Sitting on the ball a few hours a day (with good posture) can positively impact your core health. Once you feel confident on the ball – I admittedly struggled to adapt to the fact that I couldn’t turn to look at someone as easily or reach for the far desk drawer as quickly – you can incorporate exercises. For instance, you could challenge yourself to crunches on the ball mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Every time you wrap up a conference call, try some leg raises. If the stability ball option isn’t conducive to your office environment, look into a standing desk. Essentially raising your desk several inches and keeping you on your feet can negate the negative back issues that can come with sitting all day.

If you’re feeling very adventurous/have the space, you can transform your office by installing a treadmill desk. Before you know it, you’ll hit all 10,000 of your steps by lunch. My cubicle does not have the option of a treadmill, but I did purchase a stability ball that I use for half the day. I commit myself to 100 crunches per day, splitting them up depending on my schedule.

“Wellness Time”

Nowadays, companies are more inclined to offer wellness time because it saves them health insurance money. Some companies offer access to a gym in the building or nearby – take advantage, even if it’s just in the winter months when it’s too cold to exercise outside. There’s also “wellness time” available in some workplaces – for example, giving employees an hour and a half lunchtime if they use the time to exercise.

I got access to the gym and try to head down once a week, if I feel I haven’t gotten enough exercise outside of work hours. While I typically don’t use the hour and half wellness time, I now incorporate walks during my lunch hour – just to get out of the office for 20 – 40 minutes.

Cut Back on Caffeine

Most workplaces have coffeemakers or Keurigs in the office, not including coffee carts, cafes and local Starbucks within walking distance. The early mornings, commute-stress and afternoon lulls had me reaching for coffee much more than I’d like. Not only was this causing a little dehydration, bloating, and headaches, but it was hurting my wallet too! To compensate, I brought a large Starbucks tumbler to work, challenging myself to finish at least one full bottle before drinking any coffee. The addition of water helped reduce breakouts and lines around my eyes as well as eliminating the pesky caffeine headaches. I committed myself to one purchased coffee per week to help my bank account.

Snacking Smart

You’ve probably heard it before, but meal-prep is everything. I didn’t realize how much money I spent on lunch or afternoon snacks every week! Just running out for a sandwich or muffin can really add up and the unhealthy choices contributed to my weight gain. To really commit myself, I convinced a few coworkers to join me in meal-prepping for the week. While Sunday nights involve a lot of dishes and cook time, the rest of the week is much easier. Less spending on unhealthy snacks and a less stressful morning, as all my lunches are stacked in the fridge, ready to go.

Tech Tools

Technology has come so far in the last few years. If you own a Fitbit or Apple Watch, it can tell you when to stand, prompt you to take at least 250 steps per hour, and push you to reach your peak activity levels. Not only can the apps/watches tell you to exercise, but you can track your water intake, your calorie counts, and the Apple Watch even prompts you to breathe. I set my watchface as the Activity circle to constantly remind myself to stay active.

It’s hard to balance staying active, focusing on your job and maintaining healthy eating habits. It becomes even harder when your job requires you to stay in an office setting for eight or more hours a day. For those who commute to work, it only adds an additional hour or two of sitting per day. However, while more and more people join the workforce, the workforce is changing too. Companies are becoming more flexible, offering more health benefits and resources to employees. After just a few weeks of small lifestyle changes, I already feel healthier, more focused and active.

Kelly Morrison Menk

Kelly Morrison Menk

When not writing, Kelly works as a communications associate at a nonprofit in Washington, DC. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Mary Washington and Master's in Communication from George Mason University. She firmly believes that running daily allows her to continue her serious Coca-Cola addiction without repercussions (no, Pepsi is not the same). When she's not working or fighting horrible DC traffic, you can find her sleeping, eating or attempting to train her two pups.
Kelly Morrison Menk
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