Occupational Health & Safety

Experts Offer Fitness, Health Tips for Office Workers

Doctors advise that workers build health and fitness regiments into their daily office routine.

For those with desk jobs, being in the office can mean less physical activity and more sitting throughout the day.

According to physician members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, sitting in one position for a long period of time and a lack of physical activity, particularly in combination with work-related stress, can negatively impact overall health. Doctors advise that workers build health and fitness regiments into their daily office routine.

“Today, most Americans spend a lot of time sitting,” said Ralph Schmeltz, M.D., 2011 president of PAMED and an internal medicine specialist from the Pittsburgh area. “That’s not necessarily good for flexibility, muscular strength, and the health of our lungs and heart.

“For those who are able, find a parking spot at your office that requires you to walk far, and try taking the steps instead of the elevator,” he said. “Then, when you’re in the office, occasionally do some office rounding to get extra steps and take time at your desk to stretch.”

Marilyn J. Heine, M.D., 2012 president of PAMED and a hematologist-oncologist and emergency medicine specialist from Philadelphia, adds that office workers should be aware of diet and nutrition.

“Once you’re back in the office and less active, it’s too easy to fall into a routine of snacking the wrong way and overeating at lunch,” Heine said. “Vending machines are often filled with candy and chips while oversized lunch portions are the norm in many restaurants.”

Heine recommends carrying a water bottle to the office rather than hitting the soda machine. Healthy snacks such as fruit and vegetables also are a smart choice.

Heine also advocates the 5-2-1-Almost None Formula developed by Nemours. The formula recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, limiting TV time to no more than two hours a day, getting at least one hour of physical activity a day, and drinking almost no sugary beverages.

“In addition to the formula developed by Nemours, I also suggest to patients that they drink eight glasses of water a day,” Heine said. “This is a pretty good base formula for all of us to follow.”

Physician members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society offer the following ideas for those with desk jobs on how to incorporate fitness and health into the office setting:

1. Walk as much as possible throughout the workday. Park far from the office entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make rounds in the office. Take a walk during lunch.

2. Take a few moments to perform stretches you can do in the office. Throughout the day try doing some stretches for your shoulders, back, arms, hips, and legs (see list of ideas below).

3. Body weight exercises can also be easily performed in the office (see list of ideas below).

4. Pack your lunch with healthy options. If you must go out to lunch, don’t overdo it. Consider a salad. If you’re served an oversized lunch portion, don’t be afraid to ask for a take-home box.

5. Replace candy and chips with fruits and vegetables as a snack.

6. Replace your desk chair with an exercise ball.

7. Don’t forget to practice good hygiene to help fight the spread of colds and flu. Wash your hands regularly. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

Stretches:

  • shoulder shrugs
  • neck roll
  • side bends
  • upper body twist
  • torso stretch
  • hip rotation
  • toe touch

Exercises:

  • toe raises
  • seated leg extensions
  • wall push-ups
  • doorframe push
  • book curls and overhead press
  • stair climb

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