“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Bryanna Peace, Second Harvest Food Bank Nutrition Intern

When you think of healthfulness, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many, it’s nutrition and at Second Harvest Food Bank, we are so happy to hear that. However, good things come in pairs and that’s why good nutrition and physical activity are two peas in a pod.

Physical activity often falls to the way side as life get busy, especially with work. While some may be moving around for work, it’s people who are at a desk for the majority of the day that often have the lowest reports of physical activity.

Sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your muscles, metabolism, and brain function. Multiple studies, like those referenced by Dr. James A Levine for Mayo Clinic, show that many of those who sit for extended hours throughout the day without much interruption are at a much higher risk for adverse health effects. These health effects can include weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and decreased blood circulation, which can impair brain function efficiency. Thankfully, there are many easy ways to prevent these issues altogether.

As mentioned in the article by Dr. Levine, it is important to get up and move around. This can mean standing whenever you take a break or having a standing desk instead of the traditional sit-down one. You can encourage “moving meetings,” where instead of at a table, your meetings take place on a walk and gets your heart rate up. Also, instead of heading to the break room throughout the day, take a lap around the building, or do a few flights of stairs. These are practical ways to add more exercise into the work day.

Another important part of office wellness is stretching. Sitting at a desk can wreak havoc on your muscles, creating a lot of stress and tension. Stretching will aid in the prevention of muscle wasting and increase circulation to help your metabolism and brain function.

Here is a list of a few simple stretches that can be done at your desk that will greatly improve your body wellness:

  • Chest Stretch

Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Place both hands behind your head and interlock fingers. Stretch your chest by gently squeezing your shoulder blades together and take deep breaths. Continue this for about 10-15 seconds.

  • Chin to Chest

Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Extend your legs outward and let your feet rest on your heels with feet slightly flexed. With one hand on the back of your head and one on the base of your chin, tilt your head forward, bringing your chin closer to your chest. Stretch without straining, take deep breaths, and continue for about 10-15 seconds.

  • #4 Sitting

Sit at the edge of your chair and lift your chest so your back is not slouched. Bring one leg up and rest the outside of your ankle on the knee of your opposite leg. Allow your raised leg to relax. This may already cause you to feel a stretch. If not, raise the height of your knee by lifting the heel of your foot on the floor. You may also use the base of your chair to raise your knee, as shown in the picture above. Take deep breaths and continue stretching for 10-15 seconds and then switch to your other leg.

Try implementing one of these practices, such as stretching every hour at your desk or taking the stairs, into your work day. As time goes on, continue to add more healthy behaviors and over time your wellness can increase exponentially.

Form a pact with coworkers to encourage consistency or promise yourself a reward, like going out to a movie with friends or family. Find ways to support your efforts to increase body wellness and you’ll find it’s much easier than you think.

Are there other wellness practices you use in the office? Tell us in the comments below – we would love to know!

***Check out our past Nutrition Newbie posts.