A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that even if you’re a desk jockey who manages to exercise every day for 30 minutes, you’re still at risk for dying prematurely from sitting for prolonged periods of time.
Another obvious risk of being seated for several hours is weight gain. But desk jockeys need not lose the "battle of the bulge." Here are five ways to fight belly fat on the job:
1. Burn more calories while you type: Walking at a clip of one mile an hour may not seem fast enough to prevent belly fat, but walking on a treadmill desk at your work station can add up, over the course of a normal work day, into a two-mile or more stationary saunter. The bottom line why most people put on belly fat is that they consume more calories than they burn. Walking in place while working could help, over the long run, transform the weight-loss equation into a caloric deficit, leading to weight loss. Don’t have room for a treadmill desk? For under $200, you can purchase an adjustable computer stand, which can be raised to a comfortable, standing work station. Walk in place or simply shift your hips from side to side to burn more calories.
2. Do several rounds of 'burst exercise' each day: JJ Virgin, certified nutrition specialist and co-star of The Learning Channel’s (TLC) hit series "Freaky Eaters," tells Mother Nature Network that burst training at the office, defined as 30 to 60 seconds of all-out high-intensity exercise followed by one to two minutes of lower-intensity recovery, is one of the best ways to fight belly fat on the job. “Try simple short burst exercises like a 60-second round of jumping jacks or running in place,” says Virgin.
Allow your heart rate to gradually recover by walking in place for a one-minute cool-down, Virgin recommends.
Parks or hills near the office are great places to perform burst training and get some fresh air, which is vital for mental health. Research suggests that burst training is better than one prolonged bout of exercise per day. According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, burst training may also enhance exercise adherence. Short bouts of exercise may also result in weight loss and produce similar changes in cardiorespiratory fitness when compared to long bouts of exercise, says the study.
3. Never skip breakfast: A study in Obesity Research concluded, “Eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss maintainers and may be a factor in their success.” There is some debate whether eating breakfast fires up the metabolism, but chances are solid that no weight-loss professional would ever encourage someone to skip breakfast. Don’t have time to cook yourself an omelet? Start your day with shake. A fast, filling protein smoothie can be made in a couple of minutes. If you’re dairy-free or vegan, opt for pea or rice protein powder with unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Add chia or flax seeds and berries for natural fat, antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates.
4. Drink water throughout the day: A study in the journal Obesity concluded that “drinking water may promote weight loss in overweight dieting women,” independent of whether they exercised. In addition to helping ward off belly fat, staying hydrated may prevent energy crashes and loss of mental focus. “Bypass the vending machines and the sugar-loaded drinks and opt instead for pure distilled water,” Virgin recommends. “Keep a canteen at your desk and sip throughout the day. Add some lemon or lime if you need a little flavor.”
5. Eat lean protein, good fats and fiber at every meal: Keep emergency snacks around so you're not tempted by vending machines. When everyone else is diving into freshly baked cookies that a co-worker brought into work, you can more sensibly snack on raw almonds or other nuts and seeds or nitrate-free jerky to control your cravings. (Read here for other healthy snack ideas.)
Eating all three macronutrients — lean protein, good fats and carbohydrates (read: mostly vegetables) filled with fiber — at every meal, especially for lunch, will keep you full, focused and not tempted by your co-worker’s cookies.
Perhaps one of the most critical pieces of belly-fat fighting advice: Don’t go more than four hours without eating. Some people go six or more hours during the day without eating, in between lunch and dinner. Late-night calorie bingeing may result. So, if you eat lunch at noon, have a snack at 3:30 or 4 p.m. so you don’t have an energy crash before dinner. Same thing applies for the time between breakfast and lunch. If you eat breakfast at 8 a.m., don’t wait until 2 p.m. to have lunch. Have a protein-rich snack at 11:00 a.m.
Also, don’t feast on sugar-loaded snacks, even if the source is natural sugars, such as dried fruit. Opt instead for the real thing, say half a green organic apple with a spoonful of almond or sunflower butter.
Got any other ideas to fight belly fat on the job? Let us know below.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.