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So many of us are now spending a lot of time cooped up in offices, typing away at computers. It’s to be expected from the revolution in work that we’ve had – many jobs that would have required a craftsman are now done by machines leaving us with all the data analysis and design work and none of the actual moving about. However, this isn’t ideal for our health – physically or mentally.
The thing is that as people – and fundamentally, as animals – we haven’t really evolved to sit around all day. Our bodies crave fat and sugar because they still expect that we will be rushing off any second to chase down a mammoth, not casually get in the car and pop down to the local supermarket. This is causing us some problems in our modern world and the question now is, how can we find the balance between the sedentary lifestyle required by our work and the active lifestyle required by our bodies?
The answer is, of course, a compromise. With a few clever hacks, a bit more focus on what you do as well as what you eat, and an understanding of what makes you feel good should help you to achieve a healthier lifestyle, without quitting your job to chase down a mammoth (which would be significantly harder these days anyway!).
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How to Get Your Blood Moving
The short answer to this question is quite obvious: exercise. Getting your body moving whether you are going for a run, doing a dance class or intensively hoovering your thick pile carpet, moving is the best way to get your heart pumping and your blood moving. However, since you live a sedentary lifestyle, finding those moments where you can get all hot and bothered is a little more difficult, especially if you are regularly working long hours at the office.
There is one small trick to preventing your blood pooling, making you feel uncomfortable during the day and while it is not exercise, it will make you feel much better. Compression socks are usually left to the high flyers spending hours on an airplane, but for the casual office worker, they can do wonders too. By slightly compressing your feet and calves, the socks force the blood around your feet and back up to your body. This is a good thing because it prevents pooling and swelling occurring throughout the day. Have a look at www.SockwellSocks.com for some rather snazzy designs.
Now that you are feeling a little less sore, it’s time to think about how you can get some extra movement into your day. Start by taking a short walk at every break time. Even a 15 minute amble around the block will help to loosen your muscles and stretch you out. Walking is one of the best things you can do to alleviate back pain and however much you don’t want to move, getting out into the sunshine will certainly make you feel a lot better.
You could also make some suggestions such as having meetings while walking. Now, obviously if you are having a full staff meeting this isn’t going to work, but if there are only a couple of you and you set a calm pace, it can be a nice way of getting out and talking openly. Similarly, you could put in a request for some standing desks so that you can move from sitting to standing and vice versa throughout the day. This will work nicely in any office where hotdesking is an option, and won’t cost your company a lot of money either.
One last thing to think about in this section is doing a gentle stretching exercise like pilates or yoga. You can do this in the comfort of your own home with just a YouTube video to guide you through the different moves. Pilates and yoga are both perfect for realigning your spine after all that sitting down and helping your muscles to stretch out, relieving the buildup of lactic acid that happens throughout the day. Even just 20 minutes while dinner is in the oven will help you significantly.
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Eating and Drinking Right
Offices are by far one of the worst places for snacking. Not only do you feel more hungry throughout the day because you are getting bored with the monotony of what you are doing, but someone has brought in some homemade cakes as a treat (again) and you are obliged to have one. While having a few snacks over the week probably won’t do too much harm, if you are constantly thinking about where to get your next sugar fix, it is quickly going to cause some problems.
One of the first things to realise is that you are probably feeling hungry because you are relying too much on carbs and not enough on protein. It is an easy mistake to make in a world filled with ready-made sandwiches, quick pasta and noodles. Adding more protein to your diet will help you to feel fuller for longer and, if you concentrate on lean proteins such as eggs, chicken, tofu and beans, then you may also start to lose a little bit of weight.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals and if you want to go through the whole morning without snacking, an omelette could not be better. Fill it up with herbs and veggies to make it even healthier and don’t feel guilty about adding some cheese (calcium, protein and a bit of fat never hurt). Alternatively, you could try baking your eggs and serving them with toast for a bit of crunchy satisfaction.
Finally, you must make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding lots of sugary drinks. Staying hydrated in an air-conditioned office is a challenge you need to be determined to take on. Water is naturally the best thing you can drink as it will instantly refresh you and give you an energy boost, not to mention make concentration a lot easier! Warm drinks like tea and coffee are also beneficial, especially if you have a cold or sore throat, as these will soothe you too. Just watch out for drinking too much caffeine – switch to decaf in the afternoon to ensure you still get a good night’s sleep.
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Know Your Own Mind
When you spend all day sat inside doing the same things over and over, it is easy to start feeling demoralised and forget to do the things you love in your free time. This is completely normal and most people will experience something like this at some point in their lives. The key is knowing what makes you happy and then making the effort to do it more often. Go for a run at the gym, catch that movie you saw advertised, spend an evening in the bath soaking in some posh bubbles. Whatever you want most, that’s what you should do.
In the hectic modern world we have created, things now move so fast that finding the time to actually think properly is tough. This is probably why mindfulness and meditation have risen in popularity. You don’t need to go full-on hippy to enjoy mindfulness, or indeed have to practise mindfulness itself. Just having 15 minutes to let your thoughts run wild and daydream will allow you the chance to slow down and process what is happening. If you are struggling, try coloring to give your hands something to do without detracting too much from your thoughts. You could also try letting your thoughts wander when you go for your walks throughout the day.
We are all growing much more aware of the different kinds of mental health problems that people tend to suffer from stress and anxiety at work to more general issues like depression. Though it should go without saying, it is worth repeating that these mental health issues affect the vast majority of people to some degree in their lives and there is absolutely nothing wrong with realising that you need help. Telling a friend how you feel is a good starting point, but if you find that your symptoms are getting worse and interfering with your life, you must see your doctor.
The sedentary lifestyle is certainly having an impact on the way we live, the way we feel and who we are. While this kind of change is inevitable, and the future holds some exciting developments in store, we still need to get back to some of the most basic parts of our lives and reevaluate how we can live as healthily as possible. With so much technology in the world, it seems daft that we are not using it to its full potential to keep us healthy and happy. But, then again, with such simple tips to achieve our goals, maybe looking to technology to solve all our problems is the wrong place to search. The answer, it seems, is what our ancestors have been telling us all along.