Unless your job is leading group runs to the health food store to buy organic vegetables and teach people how to cook them, chances are your job is not making you healthier. Here are six easy health hacks to mitigate the damage that office work can wreak on your body.
- Take your lunch. We’ve said it many times before, but it’s still true. One of the best ways to improve your workplace health is to commit to taking your lunch as many times per week as you can. You control the calories. You control the nutrition. You control the cost. An easy way to start is to make a little extra for dinner the night before and pack the leftovers into containers as you clean up the kitchen. Need inspiration? Try these recipes for jar lunches, heart-healthy lunches, or simple office lunches.
- Bring in a plant. Spending time in nature is a powerful way to shake off the stresses of the workaday world. But when you can’t get out into nature, you can bring a little of the natural world into your office space with a plant. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology confirmed that air quality, productivity, and workplace satisfaction were all increased in offices with many plants.
- Set a timer. We all know that getting up and walking for a short period every hour or two can counteract some of the negative effects of a sedentary job. Yet when we get into a serious flow while updating spreadsheets or writing a press release, how many of us heed this advice? Your phone or an inexpensive egg timer can help. Set the timer for 55 minutes and promise yourself you’ll follow through with a 5-minute walk to the watercooler or mail room when it rings.
- Ditch the sugary drinks. Speaking of the watercooler, make sure H2O is your drink of choice. It’s easy to grab a Coke when energy flags, but cold water can pep you up almost as well as the caffeine in soda—without the sugar that contributes to weight gain and tooth decay.
- Laugh more. A meta-analysis of humor in the workplace published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology in 2012 outlines a wide range of benefits to workers, ranging from increased performance to work-group cohesion to higher job satisfaction. Which makes sense, because laughter is associated with positive hormone release that helps everyone manage stress better.
- Become a workplace wellness advocate. Maybe your workplace is lagging when it comes to supporting employee health. You can be part of the solution! Join your employer’s wellness committee (or create one), and you’ll reap the benefits of helping others make strides toward their healthiest self (and you’ll help yourself get healthier, too).
Miriam Wolf is a Portland-based health coach.