My first job after university was at the Canadian Cancer Society, where I had volunteered the previous summer. Minimum wage was the going rate and I was thrilled to work at a desk in the middle of a big room next to the public printer, even if it meant commuting across the city to an industrial park. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a dream come true to finally have a spot in the nine-to-five world—a world where people took turns bringing in snacks every Friday (one woman actually ran to the kitchen every Friday morning to see what the treat was). Snacks and coffee are certainly an important part of the Canadian work day, but how are they affecting workers?
Eating treats at the office is a very slippery slope, and it often means you’ll hit the 2 p.m. wall. Saying you’ve “hit the wall” became a universally understood term during my office experience, and it would curiously be followed by a big donut or English Toffee cappuccino. Anyone who’s lived in a student residence should know the feeling too. It tends to come “out of nowhere” about an hour after digesting your Pop Tarts and Kraft Dinner but not before you’ve even half-finished your paper. We get lethargic, lose energy, and warp into the opposite of our best-and-brightest selves. Whether you love your job or just want to earn money, inserting some exercise into your day will save you a lot of time and energy, and will help you function at a higher level. Junk food and caffeine are a part of life, but they don’t need to rule your behaviour. When you feel good, life is much easier—even at work!
Research has found that sitting for eight hours a day with only a few breaks is unnatural for the human body. If you feel sluggish, standing up every 30 minutes to circulate oxygenated blood to your cells will make a big difference. If you’re worried that colleagues will think you’re a weirdo for stretching in a public space, then take a walk around the building or walk up several flights of stairs. It takes only three minutes and feels like a splash of cool, refreshing water on your face. I wasn’t into washing my face at work, so when I felt like a zombie by mid-afternoon, I’d close my office door and stretch the major muscles in my body. If you don’t have an office door to close, find a hallway, or just tell everyone to stop staring at you and get back to work. The increase in blood flow to your brain will rejuvenate you and help you power through the rest of the work day.
Walking meetings, lunch-hour gym and yoga sessions, or running to your car to check for parking tickets are all great ways to squeeze an extra 15 to 30 minutes of exercise out of your day. And the next time you’re about to take a Timbit just because it’s there, ask yourself if it’s worth the sugar-and-carb crash. Maybe you’ll pass on the treat and take the stairs instead.