January is officially the bleakest month of the year. It’s cold outside, you’re broke and you’re stuck in the office making it difficult to kick start your health and fitness resolution. Just because you can’t afford that gym membership and you’re office-bound and on your rump, doesn’t mean you have to let your fitness suffer. Feel Good Contacts has teamed up with Personal Trainer, Badrul Islam to help you to get fit without spending a penny.
Our working world is designed so that we are sitting for eight hours a day. This is the most passive thing you can do which means that you’re not metabolising sugars and fats. Research shows that long periods of sitting can have a detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing and cut years off our lives. The World Health Organisation listed inactivity as the fourth biggest risk factor in global adult mortality.
But luckily there are some office exercises and other initiatives you can take to combat fatigue and weight gain. Here are some tips on how to kick start your New Year fitness program and keep your muscles engaged:
Once you’re back at work after the festive break, find a co-worker with similar New Year health goals so that you can support each other. It is easier to stick with your plan if a buddy is going through the same resolution and helps you to adhere to your schedule and nutritional goals. Alternatively, suggest a fitness initiative to your management team. This would be a great way to get everyone involved and lessen any embarrassment of exercising at work!
Start your day by walking or cycling to work. But if this is an unrealistic option then get off the bus or train a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way. If you have shower facilities at work and want to push yourself even harder, why not get off the train or bus even more than two stops earlier and jog to work or home. You could increase the stops incrementally as you get fitter. If you don't have shower facilities at work, at least try to jog part of the way home.
Something to bear in mind on your daily commute is how you carry your bag. Try to spread the load equally between both sides of your body by wearing a two-strapped backpack which will allow you to maintain a neutral spine and prevent chronic gait imbalances. You could also make your walk to work even more challenging by adding extra weight to your bag so that you burn more calories.
If you’re driving, then park further away. Once you arrive at the office block, get your blood pumping by using the stairs instead of the lift. Follow these suggestions and you’ll arrive at work feeling fresh, energised and with a clear mind.
Bring your own healthy lunch into work. Food preparation is a great way to control your consumption and saves you money as you won't be buying the quickest, most expensive option when you're in a rush. Chicken, turkey and egg-based lunches are packed with protein and will provide you with the essential building blocks for calorie burning muscles. Fish like tuna and mackerel are cost effective sources of protein that will also increase your energy and the omega-3 will help you to maintain a sharp mind and improve your eyesight. Remember to supplement your protein with vegetables: not only are vegetables much cheaper than meat, they’re full of vitamins, minerals and guilt-free calories and perfect to chop up into snack-size pieces to keep you going throughout the day. Fruit, protein shakes, salads and natural fiber bars are also great snacks.
In terms of drinking, water is one of the easiest ways to manage body weight and reduce your food consumption. To ensure that you are consuming a sufficient amount of water, keep 2 bottles of water (1.5- 2 litres) handy. This will leave you with no excuse for not drinking enough. When full, your water bottles will also be a perfect substitute for dumbbells or weights! If you need to drink something warm, then try non sugary herbal drinks, black coffee or broth.
Turn daily tasks into exercises. Instead of emailing or calling your colleague across the room, walk over to their desk for a face to face conversation. If you’re having a meeting, then suggest a standing meeting. As well as getting you out of your chair, research shows that these types of meetings are a good way of increasing efficiency, making sure that the meeting doesn’t stretch to an hour when it can be done in half the time. When you’re back at your desk, if it’s possible, stand up and do your work. Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories than sitting and it’s good for your back and posture. If you can’t stand and work, then stand up every 30 minutes to stretch your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of sitting. Use a towel or find an office broomstick to use for stretching. Holding the towel or broomstick with straight arms at either end, rotate back and forth over your head slowly. Doing this can help to open up your chest muscles and mobilise your back muscles. Stretching is vital for maintaining good posture, especially when working at a desk for several hours a day. It will also help to reduce back and neck pain significantly. If you’re feeling particularly energetic then why not try some deskercise.
Try and break up multiple chunks of sitting time (set an alarm if you feel you need it) with some movement by taking trips to the water machine. The general rule is to take a walk at least every half an hour to get a glass of water. People get dehydrated when they sit, plus at this time of year the office will be heated so you’ll need the extra h20.
When you’re stuck with some dead time, for example, whilst waiting for the kettle, photocopier or meeting room, don’t be embarrassed to do some light exercises like calf raises, squats or lunges.
If you can manage to brave the cold weather, then go for a walk in your break. Use your longer lunch break for a workout. Go to your local park for a power walk or run. If you’re new to running, then download the NHS’s Couch to 5K app podcast. It will ease you in gently. For variety of exercises, look out for the communal gym equipment that has been installed in many parks up and down the country. Failing that, you’ll often find monkey bars in the children’s playground where you can work on your pull ups.
Nimesh Shah, Marketing Director at Feel Good Contacts commented: “At Feel Good Contacts we know that if we keep ourselves healthy, we will be happier, have more energy, less sick days and are more productive. But at this time of year it can be difficult to motivate staff. So we have tried to implement simple things which do make a difference. For instance, we take it in turns to go to the local coffee shop. It’s a quick and easy way to get out of the office for some fresh air and a stretch. Also, sometimes, when I have 1-1 meetings, I suggest we do this whilst walking, I find this encourages creativity and free-flowing conversation plus the added benefit of some physical activity. All staff are encouraged to wear smart but comfortable clothes and most employees come to work in a pair of trainers which comes in handy for the lunchtime power walk.”
Badrul Islam, Personal Trainer concluded: “Your health is more important than any amount of pay. So be mindful of the length of time you’re sitting. Doing so can mean a long and healthy career for years to come. In addition, prioritising a healthy sleep pattern over social activity, will increase your energy, speed up recovery and boost your productivity.”