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Health Tips For Busy People: Healthy Diet & Exercise In the Office


Many women's lifestyle magazines frustrate us by providing exercise regimens for work and then adding: "You can do this exercise in your office!" What about those of us who work in a cube or other small space (with no floor space for Pilates-style stretches) that's not very private (do you really want your boss to wander by right when you're doing jumping jacks?). Even if you are cube-confined, you can maintain your health in a cube.

Make A "Health" Drawer

Your filing spaces are your friends. Most cubes have lots of little drawers. Make one of them a "health" drawer. Add a ziplock bag or two with healthy non-perishable snacks in it (maybe dried veggies), a few bags of herbal, non-caffeinated tea (switch over from coffee midday to help you sleep better at night), and a travel-size hand-sanitizing gel for use regularly when there's a cold going around the office (did you know most colds are transmitted through shared objects like doorknobs?). A decorative canvas bag can store an extra pair of athletic shoes in case you can take a 10 minute walk or stretch break over lunch.

Get Blood Back To Your Brain:

Pop goes the weasel. When you sit in a cube in front of a computer or on the phone for hours at a time, gravity pulls your blood towards your feet. It pools in your feet, ankles, and fanny; if you're ever noticed your feet looking puffy towards the end of the day, the puffiness may be a side-effect of having blood spending so much time down there! Our arm and leg muscles function as "pumps" to get blood back to the heart.

While you could just do jumping jacks to get the blood flowing back upwards, there are less noticeable ways to get blood moving: If you've got a shelf in your high in your cube, keep daily useables (paperclips, stapler) there; getting up regularly will remind you to stretch. While standing lift your legs up at the knee, one at a time, to help get blood flowing. One enterprising woman kept a postcard pinned up towards the very top of her cube wall - and kept an ever-growing collection of postcards that she exchanged every day in the afternoon. The new postcard each day perked her up, and it gave her a reminder to get up and stretch several times a day.

Muscular injury is common in the desk-job world. The Center for Disease Control reports that 92,576 injuries resulted from repetitive motion, including typing or key entry. Make sure to take breaks from the keyboard at least once an hour. Use a wrist support at your computer when you are typing or browsing, Your forearm, wrist, and hand should be on a level, not making a V. The Harvard RSI action group suggests some exercises to help prevent repetitive stress injuries (http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/). If you spend a lot of time on the phone and can't use a speaker phone, don't hold the phone by crunching your shoulder against your ear. Instead, invest in or ask for a headset or shoulder support for your receiver.

Drink Plenty Of Water:

Drinking water is very important. It can help you recover from a cold more quickly (though it doesn't "cure" it), replenish lost fluids after exercise, and assist in weight loss (many people think they are hungry when they are actually thirsty, so make sure to take a drink before diving for the candy machine). Keep a four-cup bottle or thermos near the computer and replenish daily. Don't overdo though - excess water can dilute important minerals and vitamins in your blood stream.

Make Sure To Take Your Vitamins & Other Pills:

Pill reminders. Do you need regularly forget to take vitamins because you're busy? Find an attractive, desk-top container to put the bottle in - a decorative flower pot is one option. Something attractive and eye catching will remind you it's there. This can also work for daily medications, but keep in mind that some medications can be toxic to others or have street-value (many prescribed pain killers), so these are medications that should stay with you, rather than your desk.

American Council on Exercise, "How much water is too much?," 2005

Center for Disease Control, "Repetitive Stress/Strain Injuries," www.cdc.gov/od/ohs/Ergonomics/Ergohome.htm

Tyrrell, D., Fielder, M. , Cold Wars: The Fight against the Common Cold,Oxford University Press, 2003

Ian Mason, owner of Shoppe.MD, your source for Online Prescription Medications and health news.

Ian studies health, weight loss, exercise, and several martial arts; maintaining several websites in an effort to help provide up-to-date and helpful information for other who share his interests in health of body and mind.

Contact Ian Mason by e-mail at ian@shoppe.md.


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