March is upon us, and it’s around this time that some people tend to struggle with their fitness goals. Whether you’re having difficulty keeping your New Year’s resolution, you want to start getting yourself in shape for the summer season, or you’ve just decided it’s time to start living a healthier life, a fitness goal is a great thing to pursue. However, too many of us tend to use the excuse that our full-time jobs consistently get in the way of these goals and make it hard to live a healthier lifestyle. If you’ve been struggling with your fitness goals, and you think your busy workday is to blame, try a few of these simple healthy habits to incorporate in your daily routine.
Form an exercise routine before or after work
One of the reasons our goal to exercise more frequently fails is because we tend to be inconsistent with our routine. You may have heard that getting fit is about motivation, or dedication, but actually, it mostly comes down to discipline; planning to stick to a consistent routine is key. When we disregard discipline, we tend to say things like “I’ll do it when I have a free moment” or “I was too busy today, I’ll do it tomorrow.” If you only fit in exercise when it’s convenient, exercise becomes an afterthought. To fix this, you need to make exercise a priority and do it at the same time every day.
Sometimes, though, when those moments of motivation hit us, we might get a bit too enthusiastic in our routine modifications. Lots of fitness enthusiasts might eschew trite phrases like “go big or go home,” but when the average person realizes how difficult “going big” is, they end up just…going home. The trick? Gradually work exercise or working out into your routine instead of completely uprooting what you and your body have grown accustomed to. Instead of hitting the gym at 5 AM or going for a 5 mile run after work, simply get up a little earlier and do some jumping jacks and push ups, or take a 10 minute walk in your neighborhood. Do little things first just to form a habit. Once it’s become routine, gradually increase intensity or length.
Speaking of the gym: if gym membership costs are an issue, check to see if your company’s health insurance will reimburse you or subsidize the membership cost. While not every company does this, it can’t hurt to find out, and if it does, you’ll get to workout for free or a reduced cost. Sometimes these programs are offered by companies or their insurance providers, but they are not taken advantage of because employees don’t know about them – perhaps because they can’t seem to fit exercise or working out into their routine.
Drink water throughout your work day
Being healthy isn’t all about exercising – it is also important to monitor what you are putting into your body. Water is one of the most important parts to any diet, and too many of us do not drink enough of it. Some of the benefits of drinking enough water include more energy, less hunger, and even more exercise when you inevitably take extra trips to the bathroom. A good practice is to buy yourself a reusable water bottle that you carry around throughout the day, refilling it when necessary. The recommended amount of water is 2 liters, or eight 8 oz glasses, so try your best to drink this much each day.
Take frequent breaks and seize opportunities to move
Many states require employees be given breaks throughout the day, but too often they are skipped. We become so wrapped up in our work that we forget to take breaks, and will spend hours sitting at our desks. All this sitting is not good for your health, making it important that you force yourself to take a break. Every couple of hours, take a few minutes to walk around and stretch your legs. Go get another cup of coffee, or go out and get yourself some lunch. If applicable, take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you can, work in some quick exercises and stretches to make the most of your breaks, such as push ups, jumping jacks, or some yoga. Here is a great list of exercises you can do right at your desk to get you started.
Even if you take a break every few hours, you are likely spending too much time sitting anyway. Spending hours each day sitting at a desk is bad for your heart, and one of the best ways to combat this is with a standing desk. A standing desk will allow you to get your work done while on your feet, and force you to get out of your chair. There are several options when it comes to a standing desk – you can purchase a separate table, add an attachment to your current desk, or get an entirely new desk that can convert between a traditional desk and a standing desk. Talk to your employer about what your options are, and see if they will purchase a standing desk, or something comparable, for you.
It’s not just about moving more – your diet matters, too
If one of your goals is to change your diet, make sure you are doing it gradually also. Many people set a goal for the new year to eat healthier and tend to make drastic changes to their diet right from the start; for instance, no more carbs. These extreme changes make it harder to stick to the diet, and in the end, you are more likely to stray from it. Introduce new dietary changes gradually so you can allow your body to adjust. For example, if you snack on too much junk food from the office kitchen or vending machine, bring your own healthier snacks to eat instead. (Though the best solution is to stop snacking entirely, start slowly, as we mentioned. As you adjust to the small changes, you’ll be able to progress towards bigger changes.)
Additionally, one of the reasons people have trouble losing weight is because they’ve grown into the habit of going out to lunch every day. Ordering your food usually forces you to settle for the portion size given to you while giving you less control over what you eat. Consider bringing your lunch to work so you can decide that morning or night before what you are going to eat, and how much of it. The bonus? Not only will this help you to stick to your diet, but you’ll also save some money along the way.
Healthy living and full-time work can go hand in hand
Don’t let a full-time job be an excuse for not meeting your health goals. There are plenty of ways to incorporate healthy habits into your work day and have the best of both worlds. Look at your daily routine and pinpoint one or two minor adjustments that will make you healthier. Stretching for 5 minutes every hour may not result in losing 20 pounds, but it is starting you on the right path. As you go along, your body will become healthier, your work will improve, and you’ll be living the healthy lifestyle everyone strives toward.