Health Fitness

How to be healthier at work

Stuck at a desk all day? Here's your hour-by-hour health plan.

Despite our best efforts to hit the gym regularly and eat well, research shows that our hard work is being undone by sitting in an office all day. So-called 'chair disease' has been linked to higher body mass, depression, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But don’t quit your day job just yet – thankfully there are ways to improve your health even while chained to the desk.

7am: Rise and shine

…to reset your body clock. A healthy body clock equals a healthier body, and the key is a dose of sunlight in the mornings.

“Thirty minutes to an hour of constant, bright light is needed in the morning to tell your body clock it’s time to start the day,” explains professor Leon Lack, an expert on circadian rhythms from Flinders University in Adelaide.

8am: Pop a probiotic

A study by Canada’s Université Laval found that women taking probiotics lost twice as much weight as those taking placebo pills over a 24-week period. Research has also linked a good bacteria balance in our digestive system to improved digestion, a stronger immune system, and even a reduction in depression.

9am: Check your emails standing up

It’s inactivity, not sitting down, that’s your health’s worst enemy, says Pam Formby, a lecturer in musculoskeletal physiotherapy from the University of Notre Dame.

“Take a minute or two to move around every half hour to get the blood flowing,” she says.

Getting up every time you check your emails is a good reminder. While sitting, keep active by squeezing then relaxing your bum and abs, and pulling your shoulder blades back and down. Bonus: fidgeters burn more kilojoules!

9.30am: Grab a coffee

Especially if you want to memorise a presentation! A new study from Johns Hopkins University found that drinking caffeine after learning something can help you to remember it.

11am: Talk to a colleague

Research by the University of Western Australia found that people who have a positive attitude and enjoy their jobs are less likely to suffer from serious lower back pain than those who are unhappy. Making friends and building support networks is a big part of that.

12.30pm: Don’t eat at your desk

Eating at a desk is unhygienic, and has been linked with weight gain, burn-out and depression.

“If you eat lunch at your desk you’re missing out on a chance to boost productivity by taking a break. Also, research shows that we eat more if we’re not paying attention,” explains Catherine Raffaele, Senior Research Analyst from the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney.

1pm: Go for a walk

A gym class or a run is a great lunch break option, but unless your workplace has decent shower and changing facilities on hand, that’s not always practical. However, new research shows that by going for a 20-minute walk each day (or 2000 steps) you can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by up to 8 per cent, as well as burning roughly 600 kilojoules.

3pm: Have that snack

Is your heart set on a treat? Choose wisely. If you’re craving chocolate, peanut M&Ms are lower in overall calories than most chocolate bars. If you’re craving salt, air-popped popcorn and pretzels are usually better options than chips.

4pm: Water the plants

“Greenery can improve people’s moods and sense of wellbeing,” says Raffaele.

Research by NASA has also proved indoor plants can filter the air of toxic chemicals and boost health.

5.30pm: Meditate

A short meditation session will help you switch off and make the rest of your evening more productive. “Mindfulness helps reduce stress and increase focus,” says Raffaele.