It’s winter, the days are shorter and the cold and precipitation may keep you from enjoying the great outdoors. No one could blame you for feeling like you’ll be kissing your wellness and fitness goals goodbye. Should you give up? What can you do to sneak in a little exercise and make healthy choices?
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Below are some ways you can incorporate calorie-burning activities and healthy decisions into your day, especially if you find yourself sitting at a desk for most of it.
Walk, don’t ride.
At work, park in the farthest spot and walk the extra steps to your office. It’s good for your body — and could potentially keep your car from getting dinged by the person who parks next to you. When you get to your building, take the stairs, not the elevator. If you work in a high-rise, stop the elevator a few flights before your floor and walk up the rest of the way. Set a goal of how many flights you want to accomplish, and then walk an extra floor every week.
Talk, don’t email.
Walk over to that other person instead of instant messaging them from your desk. It will get you up and out of your seat, plus reconnected with the subtle art of body language that is being eroded as we rely more on electronic communication.
Fill the communal candy bowl with something besides candy.
Mints are a nice alternative to candy, or try peanuts or pistachios if there are no allergies in your group. If you must go the candy route, opt for snack-sizes.
Swap your chair for a fitness ball. And get a standing desk.
If these are not options, innovate! For a long time, my standing desk was comprised of several discarded corrugated boxes placed on top of each other to achieve the right height for my screen, and other boxes for my keyboard and mouse.
Bring your lunch to work.
Packing and bringing lunch tends to be much healthier than grabbing food from the local fast-food drive-thru. When you choose the items in advance, you think more about what you’re putting in your body. And you can use the extra time you gained during your lunch break to go for a brisk walk instead.
Encourage others to join a walking meeting.
A walking meeting facilitates creativity and worker engagement, and it breaks down barriers between management and employees. It’s healthiest when it’s not followed by a sweet treat from the vending machine. If walking meetings are not possible, make sure to walk around or march in place while you’re participating in meetings via phone.
Try chair yoga or keep resistance bands and light weights near your cubicle or desk.
Studies show that even 10 minutes of physical activity, such as chair yoga or lifting light weights a few times a day, can have positive health benefits. At a minimum, stand up and stretch every hour while working at your computer.
Choose water instead of a soda, or bring some fruit or citrus from home and infuse your water with it for a unique flavor. When it’s cold outside and you want to drink something hot, consider herbal tea instead of hot chocolate.
Be proactive about healthy potluck lunches.
Avoid the carbohydrate- and fat-laden casseroles often included in potlucks during winter months. Instead, make your own salad or sandwich bar. Encourage fruit for dessert rather than cakes or cookies.
Disinfect your surfaces.
Every two weeks or so, run a disinfectant cloth over your keyboard, mouse and phone earpiece to prevent the spread of germs.
Get a flu vaccine.
Getting the flu vaccine will benefit everyone around you and, most importantly, yourself. Getting vaccinated builds herd immunity; the more people who receive the flu vaccine, the more those who cannot receive it for health reasons will benefit.
Learn the art of deep breathing. Take a few moments to step away from the computer or device screen and practice reflective meditation. The more you practice this, the quicker you can call upon these skills to help remain calm during stressful days, poor driving conditions or other winter challenges.
Use your time off.
For those who are fortunate to have vacation days: When you use them, take a complete break. That means away from cell phone, computer or other devices.
Above all, don’t forget to get enough sleep and make time for meditation and self-reflection at the end of each day. These tips will get you through the dark days of winter and looking forward to a bright, healthy spring.
Contributor: Neha Vyas, MD
This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.