How to stay fit al desko

3 May 2017 by
First published: 3 May 2017

According to the NHS, 4 in 5 people in the UK now have a desk job. Regardless of how much you love or hate your job, that’s a lot of people sitting down. As experts continue to warn of sitting being the new smoking, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the human body just isn’t designed to sit for that length of time. But what can we do? As it turns out, you aren’t as chained to your desk as you might think. There are, in a fact, a wealth of tweaks we can make to our work day that in turn will reap big differences. Here’s how to stay fit al desko.

Make a packed lunch

Want to save time in your working day and save on the calories? Skip buying lunch from the high street and bring something pre-made from home instead. ‘Not only will you be saving big bucks, but you also have the chance to wave goodbye to salt- and sugar-ladened high street lunches’, explains nutritionist Lily Soutter. ‘Packed lunches give you full control over the quantities of each food group that you add to your plate as well as the calorie content, which is a massive plus point.’

Avoid ‘cake culture’

From birthdays to congratulations, every celebration in the office seems to warrant cakes, doughnuts and other sweet treats – and it’s often happening very close to your desk. The temptation is oh-so real. A table of sugary treats is commonplace in many offices, and research from the Royal College of Surgeons suggests that this ‘cake culture’ is fueling obesity and dental problems. ‘Temptation will always present itself,’ explains psychologist Corinne Sweet. ‘You have to be prepared, and be aware, ahead of time, that when you go somewhere, visit someone or go out for a meal, that temptation will be right there, in front of you. You have to plan a course of action to curb your vulnerability to being seduced by something you know will trigger your need to snack. This may take effort and time, as we often hang on to what is familiar, but if you stick to it, you will soon be reaping the rewards for a little thoughtful decision-making.’

Top up your vitamin D levels

While we’d all love to spend more time outdoors, a 9-5 office job sometimes makes that tricky. While you may be missing out on feeling the sun on your face, getting your vitamin D fix shouldn’t suffer, too. ‘You can get some vitamin D from foods such as butter and oily fish, but it’s not really enough,’ explains nutritionist Cassandra Barns. ‘The best way to get vitamin D is from spending lots of time in the sun, but if this is not an option, try taking a supplement, such as Vega Vitamins Everyday-D.’

Stay hydrated

Even if you’re swamped with work, remember to drink plenty of water. ‘Focusing on our water intake is absolutely essential for health,’ says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson. ‘We should be aiming for two litres of water per day. Herbal teas count towards this, however, caffeinated drinks, fruit juice and fizzy drinks do not.’ But what’s the big fuss about? ‘Keeping hydrated is important for many processes in the body, including brain function,’ explains Shona.

Up your daily steps

Human beings are not meant to sit for hours on end, so making a conscience effort to move when we can is crucial. Whether it’s getting outside for ten minutes at lunch, walking round the office while making a call or taking the stairs up to the office rather than the lift, small changes can make a big difference. Podiatrist Dave Wain suggests changing your route to work, too. ‘Even by adding an extra five minutes, you’ll up your step count. I also suggest if you’re a bit of a desk jockey, set a reminder to make sure you have a brief walk around the office to get yourself moving and always opt to take the stairs.’

Take your eyes off the screen when eating

Taking a working lunch might be necessary occasionally, but experts advise us to avoid it if we can. ‘It’s important for our digestive systems to sit up straight whilst eating and eat slowly,’ says Shona. ‘If you want to enjoy your food, make sure you look at it whilst you are eating and take the time to savour the flavours. Eating slowly will also give your body time to release something called cholecystokinin (CCG). This is also known as the ‘full up’ signal. Once your body receives this signal, you should realise that you are full up and stop eating. It is thought to take at least 20 minutes to be released though so eating slowly is important.’

De-stress by writing a to-do list

Sometimes work is so stressful, we can’t even find the time to step out for lunch. While we’ve all experienced days like this, it’s important not to make a habit of it. Help yourself feel more calm and collected by writing a to-do list. ‘If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right,’ advises Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar. ‘There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health. Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is, or is not, a priority, and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life.’

Don’t eat when you’re stressed

Had a stressful meeting? Avoid heading for the biscuit tin, or speeding your way through your lunch straight away. ‘Never eat when you are stressed, feeling emotional or in a rush,’ says Shona. ‘Take time to sit down at the table and eat slowly and calmly.’

Have a spring clean

Did you know that desks have been known to harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat? A particularly disturbing statistic when you consider it’s where we spend most of our day – and even sometimes where we eat. Try to spare five minutes a day to give your desk a tidy and a clean. It might offer you a tidy mind, too. ‘To give your immunity an extra boost in fighting off any office lurgies try Quest’s Immune Biotix,’ recommends Cassandra.

Embrace fidgeting

Contrary to what your mum might have told you when you were younger, fidgeting might actually be good for us. From tapping your foot to swinging on your chair, according to research fidgeting movements could actually help you burn calories – so even with a busy schedule you could be exercising without even realising!