When it comes to excuses for failing to maintain a healthy lifestyle, working a full-time job is often at the top of the list. And it doesn’t stop at a forty-hour workweek. The majority of Americans are clocking more than forty hours a week, which makes it even more difficult to leave time for healthy habits—whether that means going to the gym, making a home-cooked meal, taking up a hobby, or leaving time for relaxing. However, it’s certainly not impossible to sustain healthy habits with a demanding work schedule, and, in fact, it should be a priority.
Many successful people will tell you that how you start the day is key to feeling good. You can’t always control if a meeting goes south or how many “I need this by EOD” emails you’ll receive, but you can control what kind of morning you have. Some professionals turn to a morning walk and green juice, while others opt for reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. Finding something that resonates with you early in the morning can be a game changer. One way to feel energized and ready to tackle the tasks for the day is by taking a cold shower. Hopping into a cold shower the minute you wake up—which for most Americans is between 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.—sounds like a nightmare, but it actually has numerous health benefits. It naturally increases energy, can help boost your immune system, and can relieve muscle pain. Another way to craft a morning routine that sets you up for success? Carving out time for self-reflection. Everything from meditation to journaling will put you in the right mind-set to clear your head of anything that could potentially hold you back from having a productive day.
Helpful tips to have a good morning:
• Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up (yes, even before that cup of joe). It can help with digestion and encourage you to stay hydrated throughout the day.
• Get moving! Many successful people swear by their morning workouts. It doesn’t have to be super intense, either—start your day by dancing to your favorite upbeat track.
• Wake up extra early. This can give you ample time to get ready so you’re not stressing to rush out the door.
With a full-time job, it’s sometimes hard to not reach for your fourth snack before lunch. Maybe it’s how you break up your day or you’re feeling unproductive and eating is the only way you can seem to get in the zone. Couple this with sitting eight to nine hours a day, and it doesn’t result in the healthiest of workdays. It may seem impossible to break poor habits during work hours—after all, not everything is completely in your control when there’s work to be done—but, rest assured, there is plenty you can do to live a healthier life during the hours of nine to five.
With so many nutritious snacks on the market, there’s really no excuse for eating artificially laden products when you’re trying to be healthier. Make sure to read labels when grocery shopping so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. If you are completely lost, a subscription box service featuring healthy snacks could be an option, as it gives you many different options to help you figure out what you like.
But snacking isn’t the only problem when it comes to unhealthy habits at work—lunchtime is one of the main culprits as well. More than half of American workers aren’t eating nutritious lunches. If you’re choosing to eat out or in your workplace’s cafeteria for lunch, strive to pick healthier options. Find coworkers who also want to make a healthier change so you can hold each other accountable.
Movement is crucial when it comes to your workday as well. There are little ways to get up and move. Don’t forget: every step counts. If you have to use the restroom, walk to the farthest one. If you have a one-on-one, suggest a walking meeting. Take the stairs, walk to a coworker’s desk to ask him or her a question instead of using the messaging system, or even suggest a department-wide step challenge, which would create healthy competition to help facilitate better habits.
Helpful tips to implement healthy habits into your workday:
- See if getting a standing desk is a possibility. While there isn’t a huge jump in calories burned compared to sitting, it does have advantages, such as helping with back pain and blood sugar levels. If nothing else, you at least feel like you’re doing something good for your health.
- Walk (or even get in a full workout) on your lunch break. In fact, make sure you take a lunch break. Skipping your break could result in burnout and decrease your productivity levels. There’s nothing like a relaxing half hour or hour away from your desk to help give you a different perspective on a project or task when you return.
- Start doing desk exercises. Sure, your colleagues may look at you funny, but it will be worth it when you feel less sore! Thigh stretches, wall push-ups, neck rolls, seated leg raises, and the like can help relieve tension that you may experience from sitting for too long.
Hitting the gym is probably the last thing you feel like doing when five o’clock rolls around. Even though you may not be doing a ton of physical activity during the day, the mental exertion that a typical workday requires can be exhausting enough on its own. If you haven’t worked out in the morning, it’s important to try to do some exercises in the evening. One of the best ways to ensure you stay physically fit? Taking up something you enjoy doing regularly that doesn’t feel like a workout. Trying different types of classes or workout routines will help you arrive at one that feels like a good fit.
After you’ve gotten a good workout in and have eaten dinner, you may be tempted to binge-watch a show until you feel sleepy or get some more work done for the next day. You may want to consider crafting a healthier nighttime routine for yourself instead, which can help you unwind and reflect. Taking time for yourself doesn’t always come easily (enter: feelings of guilt), but making the effort to clear your mind—whether this means doing something creative, unplugging from technology, or practicing a self-care ritual—can greatly improve your mental health.
Helpful tips for being your best self after hours:
• Pack your gym bag before work. Even if you don’t feel like working out when you first wake up, prepare for later, when you may feel a jolt of motivation.
• Recruit the help of a friend. Having someone who will help hold you accountable (and vice versa) will ensure that you stay active, even on days when you don’t want to.
• Avoid going home right away if you’re planning to work out. If you do, you’ll be a lot more likely to just stay home.
• Try preparing your dinners at the beginning of the week. This way, you know exactly what you’re eating and how much.
• Write down at least three things you’re grateful for before bed. Research shows that gratitude can actually help you get a better night’s sleep.
Spending most of your day in an office doesn’t have to mean forgoing a healthy lifestyle. It simply means you have to try a little harder to make better choices for your well-being.
For more info, visit heart.org/en/professional/workplace-health