Brian Parr

Brian Parr

Many people are trying to create a healthier lifestyle by eating healthier, making time for exercise or other activity and reducing stress. Frequently, the focus is on what they can do at home, from prepping meals to joining a gym or going to yoga class. But many people spend a major part of their day at work, where healthy options are often limited. From the box of donuts at a morning meeting to a quick fast food lunch, eating well at work can be difficult. And for people who have office jobs, it also likely means lots of time sitting at a desk.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your time at work a little less damaging to your health. Even better, these 10 steps can also make you more productive and feel better throughout the day:

1. Don’t spend too much time sitting.

Time spent sitting at work or at home has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. This is true even for people who exercise. So, make it your goal to sit less and move more by taking breaks to get up and move periodically.

2. When you do sit, sit properly.

Good posture and proper ergonomics are important factors in reducing fatigue, preventing injury and improving productivity. Look for a guide online to set up your workspace to help you feel and work well.

3. Don’t sit still.

When you do sit at your desk, move around as much as you can. It turns out that even small movements throughout the day (think fidgeting) can be beneficial. It’s called non-exercise activity thermogenesis – or "NEAT" – and research shows these small movements may actually help you maintain a lower body weight.

4. Stand instead of sit.

Whenever you can, get out of your chair. Walk across your office rather than "rolling" in your chair or stand up when you talk on the phone. If you have the opportunity, using a standing desk when it is practical is a great alternative to sitting.

5. Better yet, walk.

Walk to see a colleague rather than calling or sending an email. And try holding a walking meeting; you may find they are shorter and more effective.

6. Stretch.

Take breaks to stand up and stretch throughout the day. Keep a handout of stretches at your desk as a reminder.

7. Go for a walk during breaks.

Get up and walk around your floor, the building or, better yet, outdoors. Not only is a short walk good for your health, but it can help reduce stress and improve your focus when you get back to your desk. Share the benefits by taking a coworker with you.

8. Don't keep food at your desk.

Having food nearby promotes mindless eating. Keep only healthy snacks like vegetables, fruit and nuts at your desk. And stay away from the candy dish in the break room!

9. Bring your lunch from home.

Restaurant and cafeteria lunches are typically high in unhealthy fat, sugar and calories. Vending machine lunches may be even worse. Bringing healthier meals yourself keeps you from making unhealthy choices.

10. Take your good habits home with you.

Sit less, move more applies at home, too. Motivate your family to stay off the couch as much as possible. And making meals and eating as a family rather than eating out or bringing carry out food home is important for health and family well-being.

Brian Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at USC Aiken where he teaches courses in exercise physiology, nutrition and health behavior. You can learn more about this and other health and fitness topics at http://drparrsays.com or on Twitter @drparrsays.