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Mini Workouts While You Work

What Do You Eat at Work?

The vast majority of us sit throughout the day at work. Exercising regularly - even if it's just a few minutes at a time throughout the day - helps to keep a person's metabolic rate, at an optimal level and therefore the muscles continue to burn calories even while sitting.

Conversely, when we sit for hours at a time without getting up to move around, our metabolic rates drop.  That is why taking short exercise breaks often throughout the day may be even more beneficial than performing a longer workout once a day - if it means you barely move for hours at a time during the rest of the day.

You can help keep your metabolism revved up and your blood sugar and energy levels balanced by making an effort to bring your own healthy lunch and snacks to work.

It takes some effort to prepare your own food in advance, but the benefits are well worth it.

If you prepare a healthy dinner, try making a bit extra and bring the leftovers with you to work for an easy lunch.  A salad can be a simple solution, adding some grilled chicken or turkey for protein.

Whole milk organic yogurt is a good choice for a snack that will satisfy your hunger longer than anything out of the vending machine.

Bring zippered plastic bags containing organic cheddar or other cheese, and an organic apple, banana, or other fresh fruit - preferably something in season.

Energy bars can also be a good choice for a snack at work, but make sure to read the ingredients and avoid anything with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose (Splenda).  Ideally they should have at least 30% protein to keep your blood sugar level.

Are you like most typical office workers who sit for hours on end in front of a computer screen?  If so, probably one of the most important things you can do for your health is get up and move around every 30-60 minutes, even if your exercise break is very brief.  Fitting in exercise doesn't have to be a big interruption during your day.  Just walk around your home or office for a few minutes, or even just march in place or do a quick stretching routine.

This is also a good time to give your eyes a break.  Your eyes become fatigued when you look at something at a static distance for too long.  Make a point to look out a window if you can and focus on the details you see.  Look around your house or office and focus on items at varying distances to exercise the lens in your eyes.  Looking at trees outside and other natural surroundings are not only pleasant and relaxing, but can also help your mind be refreshed and energized.

Stand up straight, making sure your knees and shoulders are relaxed, and tighten your abdominal muscles for a strong core while you do the following stretches:

  • Inhale while you sweep your arms out to your sides and then up over your head, and exhale while you bring them back down to your sides.
  • Inhale while you reach one arm over your head and gently lean to the opposite side to stretch, and exhale while you return to center bringing your arm back to your side.  Repeat on the other side.
  • Inhale while you sweep your arms in front of you, and exhale while you bring them back, stretching the chest muscles. 
  • Keeping your arms straight out at your sides and your breathing relaxed, gently rotate your torso to one side and then to the other.
  • Continue taking nice deep breaths while you roll your shoulders forward and then backward.  Then place your hands on your shoulders and circle your elbows around very slowly - as if you are drawing the biggest circles possible with your elbows - stretching out the muscles of your upper back and shoulders.
  • Stretch your neck by gently tilting your head forward and back, then gently tilt your ear toward each shoulder, and finally gently turn your head from side to side.  Make your movements slow and relaxed and be careful not to push too far.  Just stretch to the point where it feels comfortable.
  • Warm up your legs a bit by bending your knees into a partial squat, and then come back to standing, then up on your toes.  You can add in the arm lifts we started with, lifting your arms above your head while you raise up on your toes, and lowering your arms as you lower your body.

You don't have to do all of these during each break, unless you would like to.  Pay attention to which exercises feel good to you and which areas of your body have the most tension.  Usually just a few repetitions will be sufficient, and taking regular mini-breaks throughout the day can make a big difference. It only takes a few minutes to get your circulation going and your joints and muscles loosened up. 

Mini-exercise breaks also give your mind a rest, and you will probably find that you have renewed mental vigor and greater clarity when you get back to work.  Exercise breaks are especially helpful when you are struggling with a problem.  You may notice that giving your mind a break while you perform a short bout of exercise is just what you need to come up with a solution.

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