A growing concern for us working women: job-related weight gain. Not to mention cubicle-induced achiness, anxiety, lethargy, and dehydration.
But listen up, ladies: you don’t need to quit your office job to stay healthy and happy. Here are eight ways to reverse your cubicle woes and greet the evening with energy to spare.
1. Unplug the Coffee Pot
Coffee is a wonderful office prop—it helps us face the morning, and provides an excuse to take a midday break. But let’s be honest: it stops perking us up after a few cups. Yet it never stops causing muscle tension, anxiety, and irritability. It would be sacrilege for me to advocate a coffee-less office existence; I love it too much. But I’ve also been following this bit of advice Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project posted here on DivineCaroline: “Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.” After you’ve had one cup, try switching to decaf, sipping green tea (and reap its fat-blasting benefits), or leaning on natural energy boosters. I promise that once you curb caffeine, you may never need a massage again.
2. Put Your Glutes to Work
There’s a theory that sitting for hours will cause our bums to flatten and hips to spread. Not sure if this has been scientifically proven, but most of us desk-bound women would probably testify to its truth! Use focused glute exercises to keep your beautiful backside in shape. Another great perk of working your glutes: because they’re part of your “core” muscles, strong glutes will give you better posture at your desk.
3. Pack Your (Lunch) Bags
It’s no secret that eating breakfast will help you lose weight, but make sure it’s a healthy breakfast. To energize your day, steer clear of the drive-thru on your way to work. It takes just a few minutes to pack a cooler with fresh breakfast, lunch, and snacks. (Try Elle Newmark’s recipe for the healthiest, tastiest, easiest breakfast ever.) If you do go out for lunch with the gang, follow MainStreet’s guide for ordering healthy at McDonald’s (is it possible?) and Core Performance’s 7 Rules for Eating Clean When You Eat Out.
4. Stay Sane Through the Night Shift
Whether you’re a nurse, bartender, law enforcement officer, or one of the many other women who work atypical shifts, you probably find that it’s tough to stick with your fitness regimen. But there’s hope for swing-shift and night-shift workers: read Ask Fitness Coach’s night shift tips for lodging exercise into your schedule, getting healthy meals at midnight, and securing your beauty sleep even when the sun has come up.
5. Fire Your Office Chair
Ever realize you’ve been hunched at your desk for hours, neck craned forward as you peer into your computer? Do you spend an entire commute slumped over the steering wheel with one elbow cocked up on the armrest? Add your laptop bag or briefcase to the mix and you have a recipe for postural disaster.
When you get tired of looking like the office vulture, get to work on strengthening your core. Not only will strong glutes keep you upright effortlessly, but strong back and abdominal muscles—also part of your core—will help you carry heavy loads with balance.
The great thing is you can work your core at work: just trade your office chair for a balance ball. Not keen on rolling a ball into work? Keep one in your home office or in front of the TV. “Sitting on an exercise ball, your body is constantly making small adjustments with the postural muscles, abdominals, gluteals, and leg muscles,” explains Wendy Bumgardner. “It is ‘active sitting’ rather than the slumping and poor posture we develop even in ergonomic desk chairs.”
6. Stay Fit on Business Trips
Don’t forsake fitness when you’re traveling for work! It’s not easy to focus on exercise when you have a full agenda in a foreign city, but there are simple things you can do to stay active. Try easy workouts in your hotel room (Kim Kardashian offers a few winners in her Fit in Your Jeans by Friday DVDs). You might choose to rent a bike or walk instead of hailing a cab. Make sure to read Fit Bottomed Girls’ list of fitness items to pack.
7. Avoid the Sedentary Trap
Many professional women confess that exercise helps them deal with job stress and long commutes. And while a daily gym or jogging session is great, you need more than an hour of activity to stay fit—especially if you work up to ten-hour days on your rump like many Americans.
“If you think your once-a-day training session counteracts the hours you spend sitting, think again,” warns athletic expert Tia Albright.
It’s easier than you think to steal extra training time: commute to work via foot or bicycle a few days a week. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and walk around the block on your lunch break. And for heaven’s sake, don’t trample the grass just to shave a minute off your trip into the building!
In the office, keep moving. Get up to refill your water bottle every hour (stretch your legs and avoid dehydration—both make for improved productivity). Have face-to-face conversations instead of emailing your coworkers as often as possible. For more tips on staying active beyond the gym’s walls, Active.com has a great guide.
8. Use Your Workplace Wellness Program
As women take on more and more responsibility at work and in their personal lives, workplace wellness is gaining momentum. Find out if your company has a wellness program, or if they’d be willing to start one. Last summer my employer sent me and several of my coworkers to a nature wellness retreat for working, stressed-to-the-max women. It sounded a little weird to me but turned out to be amazing and—for being only two days—it was infinitely rejuvenating.
This article originally appeared on Ask Fitness Coach as part of the Saturday Body Sculpting Buzz series.