Tiny, tactical changes in the way you live at work can have a significant impact on your health if repeated 365 times a year.
If you increase activity for just 4 minutes a day, over a year, that could be a pound of fat you kept off. Does a pound sound insignificant? Hold a pound of butter in your hand. You don’t want that on your body, do you?
Here are some ways that you can make minuscule changes to see results.
During your commute
- Park at the farthest end of the parking lot
- Get off one station before your subway stop and walk the rest of the way
- Stand up on the subway instead of sitting down – it burns more calories and strengthens leg muscles
- Always take the stairs over the elevator or escalator
- Put a small weight or heavy object in your briefcase and lift it a few times as you walk
- Strap velcro weights to your ankles
- Walk back and forth while you’re waiting for your train instead of sitting down – an extra 200 steps a day equals pounds per year
- Leave your heels or dress shoes at work and walk or bike home
At the office
- When you first arrive, fill up 2 pints of water and keep them at your desk
- Print to the farthest printer from your desk and walk the extra steps
- Instead of calling or emailing a co-worker, get up and walk to their desk
- Sit on a swiss ball instead of a regular chair to build core muscles
- Offer to help anytime someone is moving or lifting anything (safely – use your legs, not your back)
- Put a small aloe or cactus plant on your desk to improve air quality: CO2 in, O2 out
- Crack a window to let some fresh air circulate – outdoor air is cleaner than indoor air and helps you concentrate
- Clean out your desk of clutter – it’ll help you clear up mental clutter and focus on the moment
- Eat 15 minutes earlier than you normally do – when you’re starving, you’re more likely to make poor choices
- If you work late, go for a stroll around the block at 5pm when emails die down
- When cookies are floating around at the office, make sure they don’t park at your desk. Out of sight, out of mind
- Plan meetings with colleagues off-site at a local café – anything to get outside and walking
- Strive to meet with superiors over a game of squash, tennis, or golf instead of in a boardroom
- If you have input into the office social, suggest an activity like rock climbing, soccer, or volleyball
- Keep your healthy snacks on your desk within arm’s reach. How often have you eaten a bag of chips simply because the bowl was beside you at a party? Leverage that effect in a positive way
- Ditch the tray. If you eat at a cafeteria, using a tray makes it more likely for you to pile on items that you don’t need, just because you have the space. (Source)
- Avoid chairs like the plague. Stand up while you wait for someone in the lobby instead of using a chair. Offer your chair to others when there aren’t enough. Studies show that those who have to be on their feet at work have similar levels of cardio health as those who sit all day but work out at night (Source)
- Pack a healthy lunch. No time? Buy a bag of groceries and assemble it in your work kitchen
- If your workplace provides snacks, ask them to substitute healthier options in place of pastries without changing the budget
- Always keep lemons in the fridge to add to your water. This increases your vitamin C consumption and you’re more likely to burn more fat when you end up working out (Source)
- Set visual reminders: leaving post-it notes on your steering wheel or computer screen can increase motivation. Try: “book a tennis date”, “drink water at 2pm” or “pick up kale tonight.” (Source)
- If you have to buy your lunch, choose healthier restaurant chains such as Freshii, Fit for Life, Cruda or Fresh
- Reward yourself with a spa day after every batch of 20 workouts or 20 consecutive healthy lunches
- Make a deal with your manager where you may work-out during lunch for a hour, take lunch, and stay an extra hour at work. It also makes for a more productive afternoon
- “Keep the lid closed:” One study found that on days where a cafeteria left the lid open of their ice cream cooler produced twice as many sales of ice cream. When the lid was closed, sales were cut in half. Find ways to make it inconvenient for you to indulge
Using a health buddy
The buddy system – that is, getting a friend to partner in you in your health commitment – is a proven way to exercise more and eat healthier. Here are some ways to leverage it.
- Take turns making lunch. You make a healthy lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they get Mondays and Wednesdays. The more people are involved, the better this gets
- Call each other once a week to ask how much they exercised. One study showed that those who reported how much they exercised increased their activity levels
- If you keep delaying booking an appointment with a trainer or food allergist, book your friend’s and have your friend book yours
- Set gym dates or jump on the #morninglife trend: Wake up early, work out together, and share breakfast
- Buy a subscription to a health magazine for your buddy on their birthday. Have it delivered to the office so you can both enjoy the health inspiration
- Sign up for a triathlon together. If you back-out, you have to pay your friend’s entrance fee.
- Start an office competition — contribute a dollar every time you do not work out and top 3 contestants split the cash
- Start an office sports team
- Drink a pint of water as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed to clean up your system
- Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier to do 4 minutes of crunches and push-ups
- Get a mini trampoline: 10 minutes of jumping is the equivalent to 30 minutes of running (Source)
- On Sunday night, create Ziploc bags full of healthy snacks for the week
- Make a green smoothie in the morning – it kills cravings all day (Source)
- Carry a basket instead of pushing a cart at the grocery store to help build muscle
- Whatever’s on your shopping list, always fill half of your basket with produce
- Bring fresh workout clothes to the office so you’re always prepared for the gym
- Sleep in complete darkness to ensure circadian rhythms aren’t disrupted and thus, food cravings at a minimum (Source)
- Get your organic groceries delivered to your door. Discouraged by the delivery charge? Think about what happens if you don’t buy groceries and end up spending the $10 on junk food at work
- Get healthy meals or snacks delivered to your desk
- Studies show that willpower can be replenished and depleted. Replenish your willpower by delaying chores for an hour while you catch up on your favourite blogs or play with your kids (Source)
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Part 1: Damage Control
Let us assume the worst case scenario.
- You work 100 hours per week at Frito-Lay
- Part of your job is to test the new products
- Your boss likes to take the team out for beer and wings
- You come home exhausted with an urge to watch TV
There’s hope! We’ve seen 400lb truck drivers get healthy in the most damaging work environments:
There are many ways to stay healthy at work despite the worst case scenario. We’re going to divide this topic up into 3 parts: Damage Control, Tactical Efforts, and Long-Term Strategy.
Before you start: Stop stressing out that you’re unhealthy or overweight. Being stressed on top of eating poorly only makes you less well. Relax. You have plenty of time to get healthy and it will happen.
Here’s what to do in these derailing situations.
Situation 1: You’re stuck on a plane with unhealthy food
Damage control: Work out your brain
Working your brain burns more calories than your brain at rest. Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky has reported that an intense game of chess can burn loads of calories.
- Do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle
- Conduct a Google search on your smart phone for problems to solve
- Read the toughest article in the Financial Times
Situation 2: You’ve just eaten a business lunch which could very well land on thisiswhyyourefat.com.
Damage control: Take in as much oxygen as you can, then go and get some enzymes
Dr Brian Clement from the Hippocrates Health Institute advises that oxygen is highly effective at digesting food and metabolizing fats.
- Go outside and suck in air like you’ll never breathe again
- 30 minutes after the meal, get 2 pints of water and park it on your desk
- Water has a very high oxygen content and it helps to flush out toxins immediately
- Water also helps support your liver which processes the fats and toxins
- Do a workout that night – no time? Get 8 full hours of sleep – it’ll help to clean up the damage you’ve done.
Also, eating something with lots of enzymes – that is, any raw vegetable or fruit – helps to digest the indigestible food which you’ve just ingested. Otherwise, food can quickly turn into fat if left undigested.
Situation 3: You’ve had a rough day. You come home and have zero desire to make something healthy. All you want to do is eat a bag of nachos.
Damage control: Consume 1 cup of leafy greens
- Open your fridge (1 second)
- Take out a bunch of leafy greens (romaine, kale, parsley) and some fruit (2 seconds)
- Throw them in your blender with water (60 seconds)
- Throw your blender in the dishwasher (30 seconds)
In under 2 minutes, you’ve gone a tremendous way towards killing cravings for those nachos.
Even if you end up eating the nachos, you’ll eat less since you’ve already had something to eat. What’ll likely happen is that the greens will eliminate cravings and get you eating something healthier (find out how greens kill cravings here).
Situation 4: You have no time to work out
Damage control: You only need 3 minutes to see results
A recent study conducted at McMaster University found that short spurts of cardio training, performed at maximal capacity, is as effective as long-duration endurance training.
Professor Martin Gibala, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology, had participants exercise for 30 seconds of maximal pedaling on a stationary bike followed by four minutes of recovery, and repeated 4-6 times. This added up to a total of 3 minutes of exercise at maximum effort, and the improvements to cardiovascular health were on par with those who had done moderate cardio training for about an hour, three times per week.
Situation 5: You’ve had a destructive day, but it’s now 11pm and gyms are closed.
Damage control: Take a 5 minute hot & cold shower
Minute 1 to 3: Stand in hot water
Minute 4 to 5: Turn the faucet to cold (as cold as you can take it)
Tempering your body in cold water is shown to be effective at reactivating capillaries (which have atrophied by age 30 with a poor diet), and therefore expediting the delivery of nutrients within your body, expelling toxins, and killing free radicals.
Situation 6: You’re about to fall asleep, and you feel guilty that you’ve had an unhealthy day.
Damage control: Tell someone that you love them
A healthy social life has a tremendous impact on well-being and it’s as important as eating well and exercising.
Remember the Rosetta Effect in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: people live longer, healthier lives when they have a strong and caring community around them.
Send a text to a loved one – you’ll likely get one back.