Staying healthy in the office environment is a monumental challenge. It’s not unusual for the office worker to remain at his/her desk for a solid 13 hour spell, arising only for a hit of drowsiness-neutralising caffeine and/or to plunder the vending machine. Our poor bodies weren’t designed to be sat slouched and motionless for half a day, and funnily enough, they tend to complain to us in funny ways! Back pain is the most frequent cause of people taking long term absence from the office, with a supposed 15 million work days lost to it in the UK, giving rise to some serious unpleasantness for the poor sufferer! Some is stress related, but a degree is down to joint sprain, muscle spasm, poor posture, immobility and wear-and-tear. This post is about how to stay mobile at the office and care for your body properly, supplemented with a little ‘Snack Smarter’ section, to get you through your day satisfied and healthy! Click MORE to see it all…
ON THE MOBILITY FRONT…
There’s little we can do to reverse the natural wear and tear on our joints, but there are a few things we can do about the other components (sprain, spasm, posture and mobility). Contrary to the often-encountered opinion that I frolic solely in sunny parks and sandy beaches, I can reveal that I have in fact worked in office environments in the past; I know the struggle to stay fit and healthy is real, so I always took the below 3 components as seriously as was practically possible:
- MAXIMISE MOBILITY; Essentially, I’d advocate regular stretching in as much depth as possible (my preferred stretch sequence below) along with regular walking breaks to encourage a regular change in position, as well as some motor locomotion!
- SIT UP STRAIGHT; Posture makes such a difference. Much as the ocean waves erode the cliff face, so too does the sedentary hunched posture go to gradually undermine your skeleton! Focus on chair type & height, seating posture, as well as the screen & mouse position. This strays into the realm of serious professional domain, so I’d suggest checking into the NHS dedicated microsite HERE.
- FULL BODY; Regular exercise and weight training as well as a wholistic focus on the core.
My stretching routine looks as follows. You can integrate as many of them as is realistically possible, within the context of drawing puzzling glances from colleagues as you dispatch a Cobra stretch…
ON THE NUTRITION FRONT…
It’s a key consideration that doesn’t get enough share-of-mind when we’ve settled into the humdrum routine of the daily grind. It’s all to easy to plunder a colleague’s snack box, but why not build your own healthy one?! Here are some of my ideas, which I hope will help you compile your arsenal and stay on track!
- WATER – very often when we’re hungry at work, we’re actually thirsty; our bodies often mistake dehydration for hunger, so by eliminating the former (by drinking up), and the latter may also subside, much to your surprise! We lose 2.5 litres during the average day (likely more in the dry air-conditioned environment), regain 1 litre via food, so we likely need a supplementary 1.5 litres from our drinking water! A regular swig helps keep you alert and focussed, keeps the skin pure and taut, charges the metabolism, purifies the blood and keeps the joints lubricated; to my mind, it really shouldn’t be considered optional – you should force yourself to make sure the bottle stays topped up, as it makes a huge difference. Would you drive your car without petrol?! In the picture above, I’m using Fiji water mainly because it’s the prettiest bottle I’ve seen!
- COYO – the Americanised contraction for COconut YOghurt, an outrageously delicious dairy-free yoghurt alternative made from pure coconut produce. It’s low in sodium, low in sugar, super rich in calcium and magnesium. Beware portion control though, which I think happens naturally as it’s quite a rich consistency. The richness comes from plenty of ‘good fats’, mostly taking the form of ‘medium-chain triglycerides’ which have been shown to assist with weight control and immunity boost! In the picture above, I’m using CoYo vanilla flavour.
- BERRIES – Blueberries are a personal snacking favourite as they’re calorie-light, complex-sugared (to regulate against spikes and crashing troughs), antioxidant rich, and hydrating too since they’re about 80% water. You can pick these up from whichever supermarket or grocer is nearby, which is an excuse for a brisk walk, or exercise break in itself!
- ALMOND BUTTER – it’s protein & energy-rich, reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol, regulates blood sugar levels, contains heaps of iron and potassium, and is rich in antioxidants. A generous teaspoon of it is the perfect 15:00 boost, injecting you with 6g protein and some vital sugars for just 80 calories expense! In the picture above, I’m using Biona Organic crunchy almond butter.
- OATCAKES – Low fat cottage cheese on Nairns ‘Rough’ oatcake biscuits are a good source of protein, low in fat and a for you carb lovers plain Nairns are a fairly friendly little biscuit – just 45 calories, and all complex carbs (with 0 grams of sugar). One or two of these should do the trick.
- APPLES – Delicious tasting of course, but also low calorie, cholesterol-reducing (thanks to their soluble fibre, which also regulates a more stable blood sugar profile, as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer), and are flavonol-rich (for cancer-busting properties) and broadly immune-boasting thanks to the vitamin C richness..
- GRAPEFRUIT – I love these at breakfast as apart from deliciousness, they’re cholesterol-lowering, super rich in vitamin C for immune support (the office can be a hive of bacterial activity!), a powerhouse of polyphenols and antioxidant content (mainly Lycopene, also found in tomato, which isn’t so great at breakfast!), help to prevent Kidney stones, and are a low-GI, low calorie source of nutritional fabulousness!
- COCONUT WATER – a wonderful low-calorie, natural digestif with a decent amount of dietary fibre, which boosts hydration, replenishes electrolytes (c. 300mg potassium and 5mg natural sugar per glass) and which is isotonic to human plasma which means we can absorb it super quickly. If John Isner credits his success on that marathon 11-hour Wimbledon match to Coconut water, then it’s probably perfect to get you through the slump at work! In the picture, I’m using a 330ml carton from Go Coco.
- ALMONDS – a supreme source of monounsaturated fats (which are associated with reduced risk of heart disease), naturally high in protein and fiber, but also low in sodium and cholesterol. Plus, they contain a swathe of vital vitamins like iron, phosphorus calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. To me, they make the ideal afternoon snack! Super high in dietary fibre, overflowing with Vitamin E (for healthy skin), gluten-free, low-cholesterol, and teeming with Vitamin B, I think they’re perfect for a low moment at work! A handful should suffice though as they’re calorific so beware of portion control! In the picture, I’m using a 50g snack pack from Tesco.
- MATCHA GREEN TEA – I massively favour this as a coffee alternative, as it speeds the metabolism, is anti-carcinogenic, way less dehydrating, is jam-packed with antioxidant compounds, as well as calming, warming pick-me up for all-morning energy! The Matcha variety involves drinking the entire leaf (as opposed to a mere pale cup of tinged water) which packs a serious boost! In the picture, I’m using Clearspring Organic Matcha Green Tea – Ceremonial Grade.
- EXTRAS – you might also spy some Raw Cacao Nibs (antioxidant loaded, mood boosting, energy rich) and cinnamon powder. They’re both used quite sparingly as they’re packed full of flavour, and make for wonderful yoghurt toppers! There’s also a Chia Pod from The Chia Co, which is a super-easy 1-step desert, to my mind, as well as a bar of 90% Chocolate from Lindt, a square or two of which is likely to give you the required hit!
I WAS WEARING: