9 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy When You’re Stuck in an Office Job

These days, companies at their offices are exploring and launching various employee health and wellness programs, from corporate-sponsored races, softball and volleyball leagues, to weight-loss contests and participation in national programs such as Shape Up the Nation. It is obvious that for most people, they do want to be healthy, do want to change their bodies for the better, do want to lose weight and tone up.

But when a coworker’s birthday rolls around, someone has a work anniversary celebration, someone’s getting engaged, married, or starting a family, there inevitably are the cursory cupcakes, cake, cookies, ice cream, muffins, donuts, candy, and other oh-so-bad-for-you treats. Curse them all!!

How does one stay fit and healthy when you’re stuck in an office job, particularly in an environment as such, where on one hand, the company implores you to be healthier (lower health care costs means fewer expenses overall), but on the other hand, fellow coworkers are sabotaging your every little effort to stay on the right track to better health?

When stuck in an office job, here are 9 simple ways to stay fit and healthy:

1. Don’t be afraid to say no and to be firm about it!

If you don’t know already, I’m an active practicing martial artist, a certified 1st degree Black belt by the American Shotokan Karate Association and Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs. Having trained diligently over the years means I can allow myself the occasional treat, if I so choose.

It just so happens I don’t really have a sweet tooth nor do I ever crave chocolate (yeah, I know!). Nevertheless, at these company parties and celebrations, well-meaning coworkers will always offer me some, wanting to see me eat something over-frosted, fattening, over-processed and highly caloric, perhaps to make them feel better that they are eating such treats too.

I just say no. Over and over and over again. Until it is understood that I simply do not want to eat such items for my own personal health reasons. I know my body and know how it responds when I eat super sweet stuff and then go train for a couple of hours in karate. The result is I feel like complete crap!

I can’t perform at my optimal peak level. And I am very conscious with what I put into my body. With these two reasons, I am comfortable and confident in who I am to just say no. Be comfortable with who you are and your own reasons to choose what you put into your body. Then say no and be firm about it. Don’t be rude and impolite, just be firm and decline such offers. After a while, people should understand. If not, don’t attend such events and gatherings anymore. You do have a choice.

2. Use the stairs instead of the elevators at the office.

For every office job I’ve held, I’ve always used the stairs, whether my office is on the 2nd floor or the 6th floor (the highest floor I’ve had an office at). If it’s the 33rd floor in downtown Chicago, sure, that’s a different scenario. You could still technically get off at the 28th floor and then walk up 5 floors for some exercise. Yeah, options!

3. Take a break every hour or two.

Whether it’s a water break, a bathroom break, or just walking the perimeter of your floor to get the legs moving again, don’t feel guilty for taking a break every hour or two. It’s not healthy for you to stay so stagnant and still in front of a glaring computer screen for long stretches of time.

4. Drink more water and switch to healthier options.

Instead of the cold can of soda, get some ice water instead. Instead of another café mocha, get a hot tea. Drink a small cup of water every hour. You have options, healthy options. You also should have self-control. Now use it to make healthier choices for yourself!

5. Stop going out to eat so often. Brown bag your lunch instead.

For a sure-fire way to spend more money and gain more weight, you should definitely eat out every week. Preferably choosing fattening foods and restaurants that don’t know what the words organic and un-fried means.

I don’t need to repeat myself because this is not a new concept here. Packing your own lunch is a lot less costly to your wallet and your waistline.

6. Walk during your lunch break.

Don’t just stay put and eat at your desk. When weather permits, instead of going to the cafeteria and sitting down to eat, just to go back after your hour is up to sit some more, eat your lunch and then take a walk. Or take a walk and then eat your lunch. Even 10 to 15 minutes is better than nothing at all. And all it takes is between 5 to 15 minutes of exposure outside in the sun to get your day’s worth of vitamin D.

7. Associate with other health-minded coworkers. Encourage one another.

Hang around your indulgent coworkers who possess no self-control whatsoever will only bring you down to where they’re at. You see, they are comfortable with what they’re doing, at least for now. Either way, one of you will have to be swayed sooner or later. Don’t let that person be you!

Search out other individuals at work who also enjoy running. Perhaps start your own little running group that meets every Tuesday and Thursday morning for an early morning run. Or find others who also love to eat organic and unprocessed foods. Share healthy recipes with each other. Then compile and create your own healthy cookbook for all of you based on those recipes.

Possibilities are there, you just need to be proactive and search them out.

8. Fidget.

I fidget. A lot. But I’m also still a lot. How does that work??

For certain times and occasions, it calls for absolute stillness on my part. For instance, when I read, I find I won’t move for the entire hour, not even my legs. I’m so immersed in what I’m reading that my body stays exactly where it is.

For other times, like at work, I shake, rattle, and all but roll around the office because I hate sitting down for long stretches of time like that. I literally feel myself becoming unhealthy, stagnant, and fat (even though that’s all far from the truth) as the day wears on. No amount of karate, walking, and running I do outside of work will give me back the 8 hours I put in at the office sitting on my butt, one of the most sedentary activities for a human being. No worries though, because this is only temporary for me. I’m quitting next year. (And no, not to go to another office job, thereby defeating the purpose altogether. But rather, to be an independent writer and artist, supporting myself through my own means. I know I can do it. )

Shake your leg a little. Tap your fingers. Don’t be annoying about it but move a little. This helps when you’re stuck in an another long, boring, and of course, always mandatory company meeting where you frankly have no idea what the speakers are talking about and could care less. (Admit it, it’s okay, most other employees think it’s boring and a waste of time, too. They just won’t readily admit it.) I do this all the time, discreetly. Until I get tapped on the shoulder to stop my twirling my pen around in my hands, I’m continuing it! This is when I’m not in the middle of doodling ninja stick figures on my papers and brainstorming new ideas.

9. Quit your office job for one that has more flexibility in where you have to work (sitting at a desk vs. working from home or at the corner café).

So many job functions nowadays can be done all online. It’s so unnecessary to be in one central location to do business, all the time. Tim Ferriss is the ultimate location-independent entrepreneur and talks about this in his best-selling book The Four-Hour Workweek. Everett Bogue is another great example, working only 2 hours or less each day, maximizing his impact in a short duration of time, all the while eliminating distractions that take away from him doing his work.

With jobs that are inflexible with telecommuting, look into other positions that are. This is for those that are not planning on quitting your jobs but merely transitioning into a new position or role which offers more flexibility than your current one. Don’t settle. You’re not doing anyone any favors by not even trying.

So with telecommuting, you can obviously then be more flexible with how you work. That can mean standing up while on the computer at your kitchen counter. That can mean working at the local bookstore with every hour having a built-in 5-minute perusal around the bookstore. And so forth.

There are obviously more than 9 ways to stay fit and healthy while stuck in an office job. Hopefully, though, the above suggestions can help you get started in the right direction.

If you have an office job, what do you do to stay fit and healthy? Please share!

Check out Matt Madeiro’s blog, Three New Leaves, on Monday, Aug. 16 for his review of my free ebook Questions to Ask Yourself! And Castles in the Air was featured under Tammy Strobel’s blog, Rowdy Kittens, as one of her Cool Discoveries! :)

View Comments

  1. Kymnyth says:

    I do a crossfit type work out. http://www.crossfit.com through a local gym. http://www.emerfit.com I love it because it pushes me every work out. I go into thinking, “I don't know if I am physically capable of doing that?” And every time I surprise myself. I get my butt kicked every time and walk away with a huge grin on my face.

  2. I find I'm terrible at remembering to bring my lunch to work. It sounds dumb, but I really forget a lot :)

    I'm actually bringing some of my groceries directly to my office fridge & keeping things on my desk. Helps save money and lets me eat better too!

  3. That's a great feeling, to surprise yourself when you've surpassed a challenge not knowing if you're even capable of doing such things. We literally can astound ourselves … just by merely giving ourselves the opportunity to even try. If we don't attempt anything, we won't ever know whether we could've done it or not. Not knowing is worse than failing.

    Keep up the fantastic work, Kymnyth!

  4. I do that sometimes too, bring some groceries (soymilk, cereal, etc.) and have it at the office fridge so this way, I won't continually go out to eat when I don't have anything on hand.

    Except when office thieves steal my stuff from the fridge! Has happened to me twice now …. I may have to kick some ass. They don't know who they're messing with. Ha!

  5. you are a black belt…

  6. Deborah says:

    For a while I was getting up early to go to the gym for half an hour every single work day. I have stopped because I had the flu and haven't gotten moving again yet. I am better enough to get started again, though, so i'd better just kick my butt into gear.
    my problem is not just the sitting at the desk all day, but also that my commute requires sitting in a car as well for an hour each way. horrible. I buy groceries to keep at the office and usually go to the park to meditate and stretch for the rest of my lunch break.

  7. Deborah – At least you're trying! Keep it up. I also love going to the park during my lunch hour. It's definitely a change of pace and scenery. A lot more relaxing and natural than the bright, harsh fluorescent lights and computer screens we sit under and stare at all day long. >_< That can't be healthy for us!

  8. Matt says:

    What an awesome post! So many of these things I am doing. I like to use the stairs but that is more because I am claustrophobic and elevators freak me out. Walking an hour at lunch along the river really refreshes me. I bring my lunch to work which saves me $6+ dollars a day (that's $120/month) which I put toward my fund to create a better job for myself. One thing I do when I start to feel down is take a day off. I just call in sick and do what I want to do that day. Our health is the most important thing and we shouldn't let a job make us ill.

  9. What wisdom, Matt! I love the fact that you listen to your own body. After all, we only get one body, one life. Why push it so hard that you literally collapse? It's unproductive and unhealthy. Good for you that you know how to take care of yourself!

  10. tokyin says:

    Drink plenty and plenty of water + tea + coffee can surely help, since that means more bathroom breaks. =)

    Fasting once in a while (esp. during winter when it's too cold to walk outside) is another good way.

    I used to run up (and down) 8 floor of stairs everyday when I was a teenager =) Great exercise and help to keep my feet lean and strong!

    It's also very important to keep oneself healthy/fit mentally and emotionally while working in an office job. Brainstorming things, laugh often, add in doses of humor/jokes among co-workers, bring a dumbbell to work and act like a Power Ranger on morphine can surely help lightening up the day if not our weight!

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