Thirty years ago we really didn’t have to worry all that much about exercise. Yes, we knew it was important but for most of us, maintaining a healthy weight was, well, a piece of cake. Pun aside it was so much easier to live a healthier lifestyle both at home and at work. Today, however, it’s a completely different story. Not only are our lifestyles impacting us outside of office hours but our desks and cubicles have now become key culprits to poor health. Here’s why.
1. We’re Burning Fewer Calories
I bet twenty bucks that it’s been at least 10 years or more since you’ve opened your garage door by hand. And I also have a feeling that you have electric windows in your car. My intuition is also telling me that you’ve probably downloaded a song, movie or book on your computer or Smart TV recently (when was the last time you walked around a library?). Technology has stolen many activities of daily living from us. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone and wouldn’t trade it in to use the pay phone again, but walking to and from the payphone burned a few extra calories and now I just have to make sure I find other ways to burn those calories otherwise my waistline is doomed. We have it a lot easier now which means we don’t have to move as much and that’s not good for any of us. Do you exercise before or after work or perhaps on your lunch hour? If not it ‘s time to make that happen.
2. Portion Distortion
The average slice of pizza has and additional 100 calories than it did 20 years ago. Bagels and muffins have almost doubled in size and for a measly .50 cents, we can nearly double the calories at our favorite fast food joint. You know the expression, “our eyes are bigger than our stomach?” Well, I’m not sure about that anymore, our stomachs are expanding and catching up. It’s time to cut back on our portion sizes and aim for the portions of yesteryear. Eat less, stop eating out of the office’s vending machines, snack healthier and watch your waist shrink.
3. Unbalanced Lifestyles
We work too much. I don’t know who decided that it’s a good idea to work 50-60 hours per week. We’re stressed out, tired and often don’t have enough energy to exercise. Make it a priority to work smarter, create more balance and consider your health part of your personal job description. You have one life to live, how do you want to live it?
4. Our Environment Needs to Change
In some regards, technology has changed too quickly for our own good. If you spend most of your time seated at a desk your life expectancy is lower than someone who doesn’t. Science now calls “sitting the new smoking.” It’s time to catch up and reverse this trend. If you sit at a desk you need to walk for at least 5-10 minutes at each break, stand up after every 45 minutes and exercise every day. It’s not a choice anymore. Working in the office of today is similar to driving around in cars without seatbelts and airbags; it’s just not safe. Talk to your boss about investing in a stand-up desk or close alternative.
5. Poor Culture, Poor Health
Yes, we know employees need to clock in and out for breaks. However being inflexible to the point that doesn’t allow your team to include some kind of physical activity is a detriment for everyone. Healthier employees are more productive, energetic and nicer to be around. Creating a supportive environment that makes health easy is key and demonstrates that you care.
It’s official; we don’t live in prehistoric times anymore. While technology has improved our lives in many ways it’s also responsible for making us sluggish and sedentary. In order to reverse this trend, it’s time to rethink the way to eat, live and work.
Julian J. Varela holds an M.S. degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. Julian also holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy and is a registered MFT intern with the Center for Human Understanding and Growth.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org