DECATUR — One hour spent typing burns about 100 calories. Don’t be impressed. Depending on a person’s weight, the body burns about 70 calories an hour while sleeping. Add in bored snacking, and that 30 calorie difference isn’t enough when trying to drop a few pounds in the New Year, especially when you’re stuck at a desk for eight hours.
“When you sit that’s actually the most pressure and most force you can put on the disks in your spine,” said Dr. Elizabeth Paunicka, with the Decatur Back and Neck Center.
Dr. Paunicka said she sees a lot of patients with neck and shoulder problems aggravated by a sedentary lifestyle. The stress from sitting for long periods of time can deteriorate spinal disks and muscles can become weak from poor posture.
“You get tired sitting there looking at the monitor all day long,” Paunicka said.
And that tiredness can lead to another potential health issue — bored snacking.
Caitlin Huth, a registered dietitian with the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, said it’s easy to overeat in the office.
“If you’re working at a computer, especially, you do tend to get focused on your work,” Huth said. “You may not notice how much you’re eating.”
Some work places offer a cafeteria or vending machines, but many people have to brownbag it or fall back on a quickie restaurant for lunch.
“There are a lot of decisions that need to be made for what’s the personal goal.”
Huth said it can be a challenge to pack a nutritious and filling lunch every day. She recommends following the myplate.gov guidelines, which say half a plate should be fruits or vegetables, a quarter protein and the rest grains. Huth draws inspiration from what foods she has available when packing a lunch, rotating out certain foods and using leftovers to keep it interesting.
Angela Foulke, director of health and wellness for the Decatur Y, makes a point to stay active when she’s at her desk. She sits on an exercise ball, which uses more core muscles and encourages a better posture.
“Just think of the muscles you’re using just bouncing up and down,” Foulke said.
Foulke said it’s important to consciously move away from a workstation throughout the day, especially if you don’t regularly workout.
“It’s not good on your lower back it’s not good for your eyes to be staring at your screen that long,” Foulke said.
She said there are many exercises that can help break up an otherwise sedentary workday. A fast lap around the office every hour can include walking lunges and squats. In place at your desk, you can do toe raises or pushups off a desk.
The Y also provides the option of bringing fitness instructors out to a business for an on-site class, such as Zumba. When it comes down to it there’s always a way to make time for activity in the work place.
“You can never ever say, you don’t have time,” Foulke said.
Dr. Paunicka is of the same mindset.
“Schedule your workout like you would a meeting.”
When you do have to sit, she said it’s important to have an ergonomically sound workstation, with feet flat on the ground, a chair with vertical movement and a computer at eye level. Turn the whole body to reach for something, instead of just twisting at the spine. She encourages people to stretch, by doing neck circles and leaning the head side to side.
As far as snacking, Huth said it’s a good idea to pair carbohydrates and proteins, such as apples and peanut butter or carrots and hummus. The combination helps you feel full longer.
When the vending machine calls, Huth said to avoid the brief surge of energy from the sugar in soda and candy and instead use those quarters on baked chips, pretzels, nuts or 100 percent juices.
Coffee and tea without a lot of sugar or cream are OK, but caffeine stays in the body for up to 12 hours, so limit intake after noon.
“Water is almost always available so that’s definitely a great option compared to juice or soda,” Huth said.