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Tips and Tricks For Having a Healthier Work from Home Experience

Young Asian woman typing on lap top computer
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Perhaps you find when working from home, you spend more time sitting on your bed or couch, snacking on whatever is most convenient as you type for hours on a small laptop with your headphones on. You barely move all day. Unhealthy habits such as these are likely to cause physical discomfort and productivity issues that can make the whole work from home experience more of a drag than it needs to be.

With some simple tips and tricks, you can set yourself up for success working from home and keep yourself motivated to stay healthy. Even implementing a couple of lifestyle changes can make a drastic difference in your work output and alertness (which often wane when you work and live in the same environment). 

Food for Your Work From Home Space

If you're like most people, it's a lot easier to finish a bag of potato chips than it is to plan ahead for healthy snacks. The good news is you can consume good-for-you foods with minimal culinary effort. Such hearty and fresh snacks and meal options that are easy to create include the following from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Healthy smoothie: For a quick breakfast, you can whip up a healthy smoothie in minutes. Blend plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt, a banana, and frozen fruit of your choice (it's easy to buy bags of mixed berries in the frozen foods section, or freeze them yourself). Add a scoop of protein powder if you're looking for something a little more filling. Aim to consume a total of 20 to 30 grams of protein per day for maximum satiety, to keep cravings at bay, optimize your immune system, and keep muscles adaptable to workouts at home.
  • Boiled eggs: On Sunday evening, boil a few eggs to keep in the refrigerator for a healthy, fast breakfast protein during the week. You can store boiled eggs for up to seven days in the refrigerator.
  • Healthy soda: If you are used to going to the vending machine to purchase a can of soda, try adding seltzer water to a 1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice for an afternoon pick-me-up instead.
  • Homemade cookies: If you're craving an afternoon sweet, prepare a homemade dessert such as oatmeal raisin cookies instead of chocolate chip and reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. If you feel like you can't go without something similar to a candy bar, try a square of dark chocolate with 70% cacao or higher.
  • Trail mix: Make your own trail mix for protein-based snack. Mix dried fruit of your choice, unsalted nuts (walnuts work well), and popcorn. Place one handful into a bag and use that as one serving. Store the rest so you don't keep eating the trail mix as you would a bag of potato chips.
  • Sliced veggies: For the mid-afternoon drop in attention, store sliced vegetables in the refrigerator that you can pull out and dip into flavored hummus or your favorite salad dressing.
  • Easy mini pizza: Use those sliced vegetables to make a hot lunch. Heat up some spaghetti sauce, sliced vegetables and low-fat shredded cheese (mozzarella works best). Top this on a toasted whole-wheat English muffin or thick bread slice.
  • Simple snacks: Keep low-fat string cheese in the refrigerator for convenience. Place plenty of your favorite fruits in easy-to-access locations.

Foods for Focus

For focus and concentration while working from home, Harvard Health Publishing recommends foods with high amounts of omega-3s, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The omega-3s help build cell membranes in your brain and have antioxidant effects that can potentially protect brain cells.

Your Office Space Set-Up

When setting up your workspace, you want to achieve proper ergonomics and avoid placing yourself in an environment that causes back and neck pain. Maintaining good posture is critical.

Colorado State University offers valuable ergonomic tips you can incorporate into a remote workstation.

Get a Good Chair

Never underestimate the importance of a high-quality chair when it comes to creating a healthy and productive work environment. Ideally, this chair will be more appealing than your couch or bed.

Sitting up straight can keep you focused on the task at hand, and hopefully deter you from the urge to scroll through your phone or from falling asleep. If you can't afford a good chair, try adding strategically placed pillows for back and neck support.

Adjust Your Positioning

Another often overlooked component of the work from home experience is the relationship between your body and the positioning of various elements in your workspace.

  • Chair height: Ensure your chair is at the proper height. Both feet should be planted on the floor with your knees at about a 45-degree angle. If you don't have an adjustable office chair, you can sit on pillows. Most desks and kitchen tables are too high.
  • Monitor height: Raise your monitor or laptop to slightly below eye level. To bring the monitor up higher, you don't need anything fancy. You can use books, boxes, or reams of paper stacked on top of each other. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows at approximately 90 degrees.
  • External computer accessories: Use an external keyboard and mouse for a better ergonomic setup. You can find these at inexpensive prices online.

You don't need to spend a lot of money to complete any of the above, and these simple changes can help you better your posture and decrease your risk of a tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis. These adjustments will also help you avoid neck and back pain that occurs as a result of slouching.

Get Some Exercise During the Day

We often forget that working in an office offers built-in exercise as buildings often have stairs you need to climb and require longer walks to the bathroom and your parked car or the bus stop. Working from home can make getting your 10,000 steps a day challenging when it takes you exactly 5 steps to get from your bedroom to your office.

This simply means you need to schedule in mini-workouts throughout the day to get in lost fitness time you’d otherwise get at the office.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says you need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which amounts to 30 minutes, five days a week. It's actually easy to complete this recommendation by breaking it up into three 10-minute intervals.

As you set up your schedule for the day, be sure to add in these three intervals and set reminders to yourself do them — even blocking them out on your calendar so other colleagues see you're busy at this time.

To set up your workouts, use the following tips to help you achieve the necessary 10-minute time:

Workout 1: Get Outside

You should aim to take at least one of your fitness breaks outside. Why? You need the fresh air and vitamin D that sunshine can provide, and exercising in a natural, “green” environment can help motivate you.

In a study published in Extreme Physiology and Medicine, researchers found that exercise can feel easier when performed outside. When participants self-selected their walking speed, they tended to walk faster outdoors than indoors and reported a lower rating of perceived exertion.

Take this time to stretch your legs, maybe walking or jogging around your block a couple of times. You'll be done in the time it takes you to listen to three or four songs or a segment of your favorite podcast.

Workout 2: Lower Body

Sitting all day can cause blood to pool in your legs and lead to muscle atrophy. You should complete leg exercises that target your glutes, hips, and thighs regularly.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) provides movements that don’t require weights. You can do these in the comfort of your home without needing any gym equipment — just your own body weight.

Movement 1: Forward Lunge

  1. Stand with your feet together and abs engaged.
  2. Lift one foot off the floor and step forward.
  3. Slowly transfer your body weight into the leading foot placed on the floor.
  4. Be sure not to tilt your body. Lower your body until you’re your front thigh becomes parallel with the floor.
  5. Hold this position for one second.
  6. Slowly come back up to the starting position.
  7. Switch legs.
  8. Repeat for two sets of 12 to 15 reps. 

Movement 2: Squat

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your abs and push your weight into your feet.
  3. Lower your hips as though you are sitting in a chair.
  4. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  5. Hold this position for one second.
  6. Slowly come back up to starting position.
  7. Repeat for one set of 12 to 15 reps.

Movement 3: Seated Toe Touches

  1. Sit on the floor with legs extended in front of you.
  2. Point your toes toward the ceiling without bending your knees.
  3. Sit upright with your head aligned with your spine.
  4. Bend your upper body straight forward until you feel some tension.
  5. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position.
  7. Complete 2 sets of 5 to 10 reps.

Workout 3: Upper Body

To complete a full-body workout (with cardio and legs exercised in workouts 1 and 2), you should incorporate some arm exercises to get the blood flowing by countering all that daily repetitive movement of typing on a laptop and/or talking on the phone.

Here are a few key movements to try:

Movement 1: Bent Knee Push-ups

  1. Kneel on the floor and bring your feet behind you.
  2. Bend forward and place your palms flat on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Shift your weight forward until your shoulders are over your hands.
  4. Engage your abs.
  5. Slowly lower your body toward the floor, keeping your chest and head aligned with your spine, until your chest touches the floor.
  6. Hold this position for one second.
  7. Slowly move back up to the starting position.
  8. Do two sets of 10 reps.

Movement 2: Spider Walks

  1. Start in a push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Move the legs straight out behind you hip-width apart.
  3. Push the toes of your left foot into the floor.
  4. Move the right knee forward to the outside of the right elbow.
  5. When your right leg is forward, push through the left heel to straighten the left leg.
  6. Straighten the right leg out and bring the left knee forward to the outside of the left elbow.
  7. Alternate legs.
  8. Do 30 reps of spider walks.

Movement 3: Cat-Cow

  1. Kneel on the floor with your knees and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Put your hands down on the floor with palms flat on the floor and arms shoulder-width apart.
  3. Contract your abs and push your spine upward toward the ceiling. Drop your head.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  5. Drop your stomach and shoulder blades toward the floor.
  6. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  7. Do one set of 5 reps.

Movement 4: Child's Pose

  1. Kneel on the floor with both knees under your hips and your toes pointing behind you.
  2. Widen your knees to allow your chest to fit in between your legs.
  3. Slowly lower your spine without arching your lower back.
  4. Lean forward and push your arms out in front of you with palms down as you bring your forehead to the floor.
  5. With your hands planted on the floor, hinge back at the hips and bring your glutes to your heels.
  6. Feel the stretch through the arms and hips.
  7. Hold this position for 10 slow breaths.

Cat-Cow and Child's Pose are good stretches to perform at the end of the workday, in addition to doing them during one of your 10-minute workouts.

These two movements can even feel like a form of meditation as you take deep inhales and exhales. Working at home can build up stress and these relaxing moves can help you feel a loss of tension in your body.

All the above movements are only meant as a complement to more intense cardio training. You should do 30 minutes of brisk walking a couple of times a week instead of these workouts. The AHA also recommends performing two days of strength training each week in addition to your cardio.

A Word From Verywell

In order to be a successful employee while working from home, you have to create an environment that is conducive to productivity. Do your best to keep your workspace clear and inspiring, while implementing the above techniques for better physical health.

The main thing to remember is that movement is key. You might not always have the motivation to get up and perform a set of exercises, and that's okay. Just stand up every half hour or so, touch your toes, jump up and down, and stretch whenever possible.

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Article Sources
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  1. Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary protein and muscle mass: Translating science to application and health benefit. Nutrients. 2019;11(5). doi:10.3390/nu11051136

  2. Gladwell VF, Brown DK, Wood C, Sandercock GR, Barton JL. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2013;2(1):3. doi:10.1186/2046-7648-2-3