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Your Healthiest 9-to-5


Plan your workday for optimum physical health and fitness


By Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie


Being mindful about how you plan your workday and workspace can help you stay healthy and injury-free, even with a demanding work schedule. Here’s how to set yourself up for health and fitness success at the office:

Dress comfortably for work, if you can, including your shoes. The American Council on Exercise found that employees burned 8% more calories when they wore business casual as opposed to traditional business attire. The reason? They moved more. And the difference may be just this: when you’re dressed more comfortably, you may be more motivated to take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk a little farther to get lunch.

Pay attention to your workstation. Sit-stand desks that allow you to choose your posture while you work are becoming popular, and for good reason: a 2015 expert statement released in the United Kingdom recommends breaking up seated work with standing work for the best health, eventually spending from 2 to 4 hours a day standing (or on an active standing break, including walks). And whether you sit or stand, reduce strain on your body by following these tips: 

  • Legs: If you’re seated, raise or lower your chair until your knees are bent at a right angle with your thighs parallel to the floor.
  • Back: Adjust the back of your chair (if you can) so any lumbar support fits into the small of your back, and make sure your back is at a 90-degree angle to your thighs. And don’t slouch! Having good posture while you sit — or stand — can help you to breathe more deeply and may even boost your mood and energy.
  • Arms: If you have an adjustable keyboard tray, bend your elbows to 90 degrees, position your hand palm down, and raise the keyboard until it’s just under your fingers.
  • Eyes: To prevent eyestrain from staring at a computer all day, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your screen and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to give your eyes a rest. 

Fit in exercise. One simple way to include a workout in your workday is by taking a 30- (or 20-, or 10-) minute walk on your lunch break. If you drive to work, you can add some cardio to your commute by parking a mile away from the office. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, it's OK to start with just 5 minutes, but commit to doing it daily — and to ramping up when you’re ready. Even these small amounts can add up to an overall increase in physical activity that may very well make a difference for your health.


Published on June 2, 2016.


Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie is a health and fitness writer, as well as a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise. She regularly contributes to national magazines including FitnessShape and SELF, and is the author of Tone Every Inch.

Additional reporting by Brittany Doohan.

Reviewed by Shira R. Goldenholz, MD, MPH on May 31, 2016.
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