For some, going to the gym before or after work isn’t an option, especially if you have a family to provide and care for. Lunch hours may be the only free time you get in your day, so why not make the best of it, and use that time to improve your health at the same time. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy.
The American Heart Association found that more than 90% of employees are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch, but there are multiple reasons why one may choose fast-food over a healthier lunch. Improvements in healthy behaviors at work may translate to a better mood at home and work, which may also improve productivity. An article from LinkedIn stated that employees are 150% more productive and 46% more focused throughout the afternoon when they eat a healthy meal at lunch.
Try These Tips
Breaks are short! Maybe you skipped breakfast or don’t have time for the gym afterwards. Don’t let that discourage you. Here are our top five healthy lunch habits that you could incorporate into your lunch break and feel your best:
1. Use your lunch break for exercise If you can’t find time before or after work, try using your lunch break for exercise and eat before and after. This doesn’t have to be a long or strenuous workout. Getting some movement in is important, especially when you have been sitting at a desk all day. Take stairs instead of the elevator/escalator, go for a walk, or stretch. Taking the stairs provides many health benefits such as improving cardiovascular health, muscle strength, bone density, joint flexibility, and other benefits.
2. Take a walk or stand while eating A change of environment may be a just what you need to clear your head. Grab your lunch and discover a new route that you could take every day. If you don’t feel like walking and eating, try standing while eating. Did you know standing helps burn extra calories because of the amount of energy it takes? Standing after sitting for a long period of time is also good for your posture and may decrease the likelihood of back pain.
3. Walk for food instead of driving Try to find a lunch spot that is close by to get some exercise in for the day. A study from Harvard Health showed that walking eases joint pain and can even help with a sweet tooth! Walking also helps improve immune function. This can help protect you during cold and flu season.
4. Pack food instead of dining out After working long hours, something quick and greasy may be our first thought. Instead of eating out, try packing your food the night before. If you want to be even more prepared, prep your meals in advance for the next few days. This can include full meals or just snacks. Get creative with it and pack something you enjoy.
5. Eat Outside – Fresh air and Vitamin D! Grab your lunch and find a spot outside to enjoy the fresh air! Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Exposure to the sun gives your body the ability to produce its own vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to be beneficial in our health such as improving our mood and lowering blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to include physical activity and healthier eating into your workday without a gym. It just takes a little effort and planning. Something as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator makes a big difference.
Written by: Janeza Bridges, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern