Bet your HR department didn’t warn you about this occupational hazard: More than 40 percent of people say they’ve gained weight at their current job, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by CareerBuilder. Even scarier: Out of the respondents who said they’ve added lbs, 59 percent gained more than 10 pounds, and 30 percent gained more than 20 pounds.
“There’s a major decline in physical activity from 18 to 19 years old,” says Bradley Cardinal, PhD, a professor of social psychology of physical activity at the University of Oregon, who says there can be another when you enter the workplace—particularly if you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day long. Plus, as you move up the ranks, you typically run around doing errands for the company less frequently, says Cardinal—so you’ll likely spend more time parked at your desk as you climb the corporate ladder.
The good news: Making little changes throughout your workday can impact the number on the scale—and more importantly, your overall health—in a big way. Cardinal’s previous research shows that short bouts of activity—as brief as two minutes each—may impact your health just as much as hitting the gym for 30 minutes a day (so long as these bouts add up to 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week).
What’s more, even people who work out can benefit from increasing their activity all day long, says Cardinal, since it can help prevent some of the scary side effects associated with sitting most of the day, like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Ready to get moving? The easy workday swaps below are a good place to start. Each of them will help you burn more calories, reduce your bad cholesterol, increase your good cholesterol, improve cognitive functioning, and decrease your level of C-reactive proteins (which signal inflammation), says Cardinal.
-Park in a spot farther away from your office (but still a safe distance) to walk a little more before and after work.
-Take hourly activity breaks (each one should be at least two minutes long) to do squats, pace, do desk push-ups—whatever. Other options that accomplish the same thing: Try a walking or standing workstation or sit on an exercise ball rather than your regular desk chair.
-When you need to discuss something with a coworker, walk over to her desk and stand while you talk to her.
-Instead of making a drive-thru run on your lunch break, walk to a nearby restaurant to pick something up. Do you bring your lunch? Take a few minutes to walk outside mid-day.
-Make it a rule to automatically take the stairs any time you’re going less than four floors.
-If you can, take public transit. You’ll have to walk to and from the stop, even if you drive to the station. Plus, you can stand during the ride.
-When you have to meet with colleagues or industry contacts, suggest having a walking meeting or—if the person loves working out—going for a run or doing a fitness class together.