The GOOD Guide to Living Better, Part Two: Work
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You spend most of your day at work, but you shouldn't let it control your life. Follow these simple tips to be more healthy at the office, by not getting so stressed out, getting some exercise on the way there and back, and even burning some calories at your desk:
Simple Strategies for Stress Reduction
Stress makes the world go ‘round—it’s the fire behind art and enterprising businesses and the thing that gets you to work on time—but too much of it will hinder your health.
One-third of Americans report experiencing extreme stress. That’s bad news since stress has been shown to inhibit immune function and slow the body’s capacity to heal. It can make your hair fall out, cause your skin to break out, and has been associated with everything from cancer to autoimmune diseases like lupus. That being the case, here are some ways to keep calm:
Focus on your breath: There’s a reason people tell you to breathe when stress has you mentally hyperventilating. Lengthening your inhales and can stop stress in its tracks. Yoga and meditation practices are designed around breathing principles. If you want to breathe more and worry less, check them out.
Experience aromatherapy: Until recently, the effectiveness of aromatherapy had about as much scientific support as the existence of unicorns. We’ve always known smell is a powerful sense, but it wasn’t until a recent study of the effects of jasmine on mice that it was proven to also be calming—as calming as Valium, in fact. Frazzled mice retreated quietly to their corners when exposed to the scent. Could carefully selected smells do the same for you?
Take timeouts and vacations: We tend to feel guilty about taking our lunch breaks, let alone our vacations. But time and again, these reposes from routine have been proven to minimize stress throughout the year, recharge our batteries and actually enable us to work more efficiently. Remember to step away from your smart phone or computer when you are trying to relax, or it might not be relaxing at all.
A MORSEL FROM HEALTHYMAGINATION
Donate $5, or whatever you can, to a charity today to contribute to the world in a positive way.
You don’t have to be a big benefactor to make a difference. Go online, or somewhere in your neighborhood, and find a good cause. Help a child. Build a road. Save the planet.
Substitute Your Commute
The average American spends spend more than 100 hours every year commuting to work. It stands to reason this time could be better spent. With obesity rates high nationwide, consider ways of incorporating biking, public transportation and car sharing into your commute.
Bike to the office: If your commute isn’t too long, invest in a sturdy bicycle and take the two-wheeler to work instead. It’s great cardiovascular and strength-building exercise, and you can burn as many as 90 calories per mile cycled. If that’s not realistic, try commuting halfway to work in your car or on the subway and biking the rest of the way.
Walk all or part of the way: Walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes can shave 300 calories—to say nothing of its mind-calming and cardiovascular benefits. It’s a nice way to gear up for your work day, or to unwind from it—especially if you spend that day at a desk.
Carpool with coworkers or neighbors: Do your pocketbook and the planet a favor and team up with others if you must drive to work. Some cities, like San Francisco, have programs to incentivize carpooling and progressive companies are making it easier for coworkers to link up. If your company doesn’t have a ride-share system, start one yourself.
A MORSEL FROM HEALTHYMAGINATION
Eat a rice cake instead of crackers or chips for a low-calorie, crunchy treat.
Rice cakes are a great low-fat snack, containing fiber and minerals. Avoid sugary flavors, and try some made with spelt or flaxseed. Add some nut butter for a healthy snack.
Work and Work Your Muscles
You know the feeling: You meant to go to the gym, but you got slammed with a deadline and now you’re stuck working late. Striking the right work-life-workout balance can be challenging, but these easy exercises will strengthen and relax your body all day (and all evening) long, even if you’re stuck at the office 80 hours a week.
Sit up straight: This seems obvious, but few of us do it. Holding your body upright works your upper and lower back, your core, and your thighs. Plus it helps keep your spine in line.
Lengthen your commute: Get off one stop early on the subway, or park a little farther from the office. You can easily build two 10-minute walks into your work day this way.
Use the bathroom farthest from your desk: This boosts circulation and gives you a good break
Re-seat yourself: Instead of an office chair, try an inflatable fitness ball. It takes getting used to (and your coworkers will definitely make fun of you), but it can improve posture and strengthen your core while you work.
Work your abs: Hold in your stomach and count to 30, then release. Repeat five times.
Do leg lifts at your desk: Sitting upright with your legs at a 90-degree angle to the floor, slowly lift both legs simultaneously. This is an intense workout on your lower abs, minus the crunches. Do five repetitions.
Take the stairs: If that’s unrealistic, take the stairs halfway and the elevator the rest. Climbing stairs is great for toning legs and butt muscles, as well as for maintaining cardiovascular fitness.
Do some legwork: Flex and contract your glutes while seated to firm muscles and get your heart racing without even standing up.
A MORSEL FROM HEALTHYMAGINATION
Eat a sweet, potassium-rich banana today as a snack or nutritious post-workout treat.
Bananas are so easy to digest, they’re one of the first solid foods babies eat. They are high in vitamin C, folate, fiber, magnesium and potassium—an important electrolyte.