Try these simple tweaks to your workday to help you get and stay healthy.
When it comes to getting healthy, there's the hard stuff and there's the easy stuff.
The hard stuff is the stuff you already know: exercising more and eating less. This post isn't about that.
This post is about the easy stuff--the minor tweaks to a workday that keep you healthy without demanding much.
1. Take the stairs.
While stair-climbing doesn't consume all that many calories (about 300 if you're average height and weight and climb five flights, five times a day), it does cause your heart to work harder, thereby improving your circulation and your overall health. Quick tip: you burn significantly more energy if you take the steps one at time rather than two at a time.
2. Drink more water.
Even a tiny amount of dehydration can "drain your energy and make you tired," according to the Mayo Clinic. They recommend that men should drink roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) and women 2.2 liters (about nine cups) of total beverages every day. Coffee and tea counts towards that total. BTW, if you live in the United States bottled water is a rip-off because it's not one iota healthier than tap water.
3. Eat a big breakfast.
Strictly speaking, this is something that you do before you get to work, but it's important enough to keep on the list. Turns out there's some truth to the old saying that you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, and supper like a pauper. Fueling up early doesn't just make certain that you've got energy to see you through the morning, it makes you less likely to need that extra jolt of sugar at about 10:30 a.m.
4. Snack on fruit.
Many offices are awash with cheap, fat-filled pastry like donuts and bear-claws. You're less likely to raid the break-room donut box on a regular basis if you make it easier to snack on fruit. The best fruit for a quick, non-sticky snack at the office are grapes and blueberries. BTW, it's myth that fruit costs more than processed food. A pound of grapes cost about $2.50. A pound of donuts (about eight items) costs almost a dollar more.
5. Have a cup of coffee.
Believe it or not, the scientific consensus is that moderate coffee drinking is good for you. According to WebMd.com, "a growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia, and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes." Warning: refined sugar and fatty "whitener" nullifies these benefits.
6. Breath more deeply.
People under stress tend to take short gasps rather than long, deep breaths. Over time, the gasping becomes habitual, thereby constantly telling your body that you're under stress, even if nothing particularly stressful is going on. Breathing deeply calms you down but, more importantly, it helps ensure that plenty of oxygen is getting into your lungs and into your blood stream, where (among other things) it helps your brain to work more efficiently.
7. Exercise your eyes.
My dad, who was an optometrist for 30 years, noticed that his patients who did office work often had more eye problems than his patients that worked outside. His research indicated that the muscles that allow your eyes to focus can lose some elasticity if they focus at one distance (like at your screen) for too long. The solution: while working at a screen, periodically stare at something that's far away, like out the window.
8. Stretch regularly.
Your body did not evolve to be well-suited for sitting down for long periods of time. Quite the contrary, the human body evolved so that it's optimized for running around in the woods whacking animals with a stick. Since you're not allowed to run around the office whacking your coworkers with a stick, give your body a break once in a while. Stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Set a timer if you need to.
9. Take a walk after lunch.
A walk after lunch improves your digestion, helps you regulate your blood sugar and increases your mental acuity, according to numerous studies cited on Livestrong.com. It also gives your body a rest from sitting, which is an inherently unnatural act for the human body to perform. As a bonus, conversations that take place while you're walking are more likely to be creative than those that take place when you're surrounded by the same old stuff.
Almost every time I write about optimism, I get an email or a comment from somebody who thinks that it's better to be "realistic." Whatever that means. Here's the reality: there is overwhelming scientific evidence that optimism makes you healthier. What's more, the opposite of optimism--expressing anger and frustration--makes you depressed and less healthy. So smile already!