As I slipped on my shorts and t-shirts to brave the summer heat, I got mad at myself for indulging during the winter months. As I do most summers, I vowed again to be healthier. For the last few days, I am eating more fruits and vegetables and forcing myself to exercise at least every other day.
I'm sure I'm not that different than the rest of American workers who get a dose of reality when they peel their jackets and slacks off to celebrate the summer months and suddenly notice cellulite that we hadn't noticed a few months ago. So what can we do about our exercise and eating habits when we work hard for a living? If you're like me, it's so easy to say, "I just don't have time for exercise."
My guest blogger today is Sue Blankenhagen, Wellness Program Specialist & Certified Wellness Coach with Ceridian LifeWorks ( I happen to be a work life blogger for Ceridian LifeWorks)
Sue notes that while we benefit from a healthier lifestyle, our employer benefits as much as we do. Reserach shows employees who spent 30-60 minutes at lunch exercising boost their workplace performance by 15%, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Additionally, 60% said their time management skills and ability to meet deadlines improved on the days they exercised.
Here are some of Sue's suggestions for how we can become healthier and still have work life balance:
1. Get moving:
· Take a brisk walk for just 30 minutes a day or choose the stairs over the elevator. Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.
· Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.
· Get your heart pumping by taking the stairs to another level. Walk laps on one of the floors or go outside and walk around the building perimeter or campus.
· Taking a walk during the day with a co-worker while in a meeting or during a break - even if just for 15 minutes - will re-energize you and help to clear your head so you can remain focused and productive.
· Try measuring your progress to help you stay motivated. Use a device to record the number of steps you take each day to help you keep track of your fitness goals.
2. Fit exercise into your busy schedule while at work.
· Sitting at a computer all day can strain the upper body causing back and shoulder pain. Use a standing desk, or purchase an adjustable platform to be able to use your laptop in a sitting or standing position.
· Use an app on your phone, tablet or computer to remind yourself to get up from your chair and stretch during the day. While you are sitting, make a conscious effort to pull your shoulders back to encourage good posture, rather than remain hunched over your computer.
· Give up your desk chair for an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball will keep your back straight, force you to use your core muscles and serve as inspiration to stretch more often. You may also want to bring some light weights or stretch bands to work (keep them under your desk) so you can do arm exercises/curls while on phone meetings, behind closed doors.
· Look for apps or YouTube videos with 5-10 minute workouts that can be done in the office, with no equipment.
· Have sneakers and workout clothes at your desk or in your car, so you can take a walk or go to the gym right from work. Have a few travel-size toiletries at your desk to freshen up with after a lunchtime workout or walk. Or coordinate with co-workers to have a communal stash of toiletries in the ladies or men’s room, including spray deodorant, powder, wipes, hairspray, a blow dryer, etc.
· Get your co-workers involved. Create interoffice health and fitness challenges to spark some motivation and friendly competition amongst colleagues
3. Keep nutrition in mind.
· Supply the office pantry and fridge, or your desk drawer, with healthy (yet still budget-conscious) snacks such as fruit, nuts, etc.
· Offer healthier versions of treats as an alternative for celebrations.
· Bring a water bottle or cup to work, and be sure to drink your water.
4. Look for ways to decompress mentally, not just physically.
· For stress relief, put up photos, bright fabric, or other visual items that make you smile and reduce your stress level.
· Take a music break, or listen to music that you enjoy during the workday – making sure not to cause a distraction to your co-workers. If allowed, use ear buds to listen to your favorite music.
· Find a restful spot for lunches or breaks, where you can take a few minutes to relax and recharge.
· Practice random acts of kindness in the workplace. Send someone a thank you email, recognize them with employer-sponsored rewards programs, leave a healthy treat on someone’s desk – anything to brighten someone’s day. You never know when it will be your turn to be on the receiving end.
· Smile more! The act of smiling, whether on the phone or when meeting others, can automatically put you in a happier state of mind. Who knows – your smile might make someone’s day.
For employers, Sue suggests considering providing resources, such as LifeWorks Employee Assistance and Wellness programs, to help employees struggling with their health on a more personal level.
I just read an article on Examiner.com that suggest employers help us become healthier by blending healthy breaks into our work day rather than restricting our self-care to non-work hours. To me, that's the ultimate incentive. What are your thoughts?
How involved do you want your employer to become in your health? Do you want your employer to help make exercise part of your work day, or would you rather have your employer encourage you by giving you a flexible schedule that allows exercise and relaxation on your own time?