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5 Ways to Prevent Weight Gain at Work

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are many factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Although increased calorie consumption is a big one, another is decreased levels of activity throughout the workday. Years ago, a higher percentage of people had active jobs like farming and factory work. As those numbers have decreased, our waistlines have consequently, increased. So are you doomed to have weight issues because you spend 8-plus hours each day behind a desk? Not necessarily, if you're smart about your choices and how you structure your day.

According to a report from the journal PLoS One, "Eighty percent of jobs, are sedentary or require only light activity. The shift translates to an average decline of about 120 to 140 calories a day in physical activity, closely matching the nation’s steady weight gain over the past five decades." Although we've known for a long time that the number of physically active jobs has declined, this is the first study to quantify how many fewer calories we're burning per day as a result.

Instead of accepting our fate, though, why not fight it! There are plenty of ways to add activity to your workday--here are five of them: 

1. Take 5-minute activity breaks throughout the day.

Every hour or two, take a break for a few minutes and get moving with a few squats, a walk around the building or some pushups. In addition to burning calories, this practice increases your energy level, leaving you better prepared to take on the rest of the day's work. If you don't feel comfortable being active at your desk, find a small conference room or lounge area to sneak in a few minutes of exercise.

2. Get up as much as possible.

Walk over to a co-worker's desk to talk to them instead of sending an email, take the stairs to the lunchroom instead of riding the elevator, print your documents at a printer down the hall instead of the one right next to your desk or park your car at the far end of the lot--these simple choices are a great way to add a few minutes of activity here and there, which can add up over time.

3. Pack a healthy lunch and snacks.

It's easy to be tempted by the donuts or candy a co-worker brought in this morning if you're starving and don't have any other snack options. It's also tempting to head out to lunch at the new burrito joint down the street if your lunch choices are limited. Reduce that temptation by packing a healthy lunch and snacks for the workday. It's okay to eat out or indulge in the treats now and then, but you're more likely to stay on track if you've planned your meals in advance.

4. Spend time at your desk standing and/or sitting on a ball.

Although this might not burn tons of calories, it can help with core strength and can help improve posture. Both can also help you stay more alert and focused on your current tasks.

5. Consider starting a healthy lunch or exercise club.

There's a good chance that there are others at your office who want to make better food and lifestye choices and could use support from people trying to do the same thing. You probably have co-workers who would love to get out and walk at lunch, but just need a little push and some friends to make it happen. Having others around you who are trying to make the same healthy decisions creates a good support system for success.

Although some of these tips are common sense, how many of them do you regularly incorporate into your day? If you sit down and think about your day, could there be small changes you could make here and there to add some movement or make healthier food choices?

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NANHBH 4/1/2021
I need to implement some of these. Report
EVIE4NOW 3/18/2021
Good ideas for retirees too. Report
Good ideas Report
PATRICIAANN46 11/19/2020
Thank You for a great article. Report
CKEYES1 6/15/2020
I move as much as I can Report
CECELW 5/27/2020
good suggestions. Most of these aren't doable at work Report
Some great suggestions Report
Thanks Report
Thank you for this valuable information!!!!!


- Nancy Jean -
GA Report
Good information, SparkFriend. Report
Since this was written in 2011, we have learned the detrimental effects of"snacking". It's not necessary, and spikes insulin levels, which results in hyperinsulemia and fat storage. Snacking was marketed as "healthy" to sell food. And Obesity spiked. Don't do it! IMHO Report
Great ideas and suggestions! Report
Thanks great advise Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Great Article Report
This was a great! I need to get out of my office & start wL/playing with the kids at recess! Report
I need to let myself get up and walk away from the computer at home, when I do my housemommy work, things I need to do online! Report
good info to maintain weight loss Report
At a former job I was downgraded when it was noticed that I walked away from my desk every time I found something that needed to be delivered to 2nd floor, or to the library, or faculty office. I was supposed to make a pile and do it all at once, preferably on the way to or from the restroom. So glad I do not work there any more. Report
Great. Report
Good ideas Report
Good ideas! Report
Walk over to a co-worker's desk to talk to them instead of sending an email, - be careful with that, depending where you work at you might disturb your coworker, or other coworkers that sit in the same room. In this case email has benefit that the person will reply when they are available and not taken by call, demo or other situation. Report
thanks Report
The getting up and taking short walks during the day really worked for me. As did the fact that the printer in my office didn't work so I had to keep getting up to get anything I printed. Not a walk, but kept me getting up and down. Report
My boss and I are the only people inside the office, everyone else works in the field. Therefore, since we close for 1.5 hrs for lunch, we have a half an hour to eat our packed lunches and then 45 min to an hour for a walk around the neighborhood. So....I get about a mile and a half in everyday at work. My boss is a slave driver and tries to get us to walk faster everyday! LOL! I'm usually soaked in sweat and panting by the end, but I know she's just trying to help me get to my goal! Report
I take 15-20 minute outdoor breaks in the afternoon to walk the perimeter of our office campus. It helps get me through the late afternoon, helps disperse stress, and seems to curb my appetite, too. I also like to stand up and walk in place during conference calls and web trainings, if it doesn't interfere with my focus on the call or training. Report
Great suggestions! Report
Utopia is wonderful but reality check not everyone at work shares our ideals or even feels remotely threatened by modern epidemic of obesity....
I do what I can, but still met non understanding people whom have seen my before photos..
I work in my home - day care provider ... I live in the kitchen - the greatest weight loss idea for me is to portion control and write it down before i eat it! the more I track the easier it gets because i am recognizing what foods really help me be content and within the calorie barrier.
I use an isokinetics pedaler which I keep under my desk at work. I got it on for about $30. It really raises your heartrate. Report
If I'm not wearing heels, I will sometimes use the restroom three floors down -- taking the stairs both ways, of course. If I'm wearing comfy enough shoes and don't have too much work, I'll take a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon around 3 or 4pm. It's great for waking me up if I start to get drowsy. Report
I leave my lunch and snacks in my car- that way I have to walk to my car. I use the stairs ( always ), 2 flights down and up, to get to my car. Report
I went back to work this week after a 9 week maternity leave and it has been challenging to stay on track with my diet and exercise.. I am an RN in a hospital so I am constantly up on my feet walking and lifting but when I get home after a 12 hour shift I am tired and my kids want to spend time cuddling with me. I have seen myself fall off the exercise routine that I was on before I went back. My diet hasnt been the best and we all know that nurses dont eat right when and if we get a lunch at all. Any suggestions......Anyone Report
These are some great ideas, I am confined to my desk for the most part, but it won't hurt to get up and take a trip up and down the stairs. A ball at my desk might be nice too. Report
I work in a converted apartment building. I have to go up and down the stairs multiple times a day to go from my office to the main office. Sometimes I just do one thing at a time so that I can go up and down more! Report
Judith Beck, PhD says in "The Beck Diet Solution" to say NO CHOICE!! Report
A couple of my coworkers and I like to walk at lunch but living in Florida it is often too hot to walk without getting hot and sweaty and since we work with patients one on one we have to be careful. We do bring our own snacks and encourage each other to avoid unhealthy one that come in. It is definitely an advantage to have someone else working at being healthy with you. We encourage each other to work out at times away from work since the walking at lunch in summer is not to good an option for us. We look forward to the fall when we can start again. Report
This was very interesting. I will try these exercises. Report
I am working 2 office jobs now, one is 10 hr a day 4 days a week & the other is 8 hrs a day 2 days a week. Both require me to be sitting at a computer all day. Will try this suggestions. Thanks Report
i walk around a lot while working. I hate sitting still for a long time so i take a break after evry half an hour! I liked this blog. Very practical ways are written in here... Report
Bring my own homemade lunch has definitely helped me lose weight and keep it off.

When I worked for another company, I wouldn't bring my lunch because it would get stolen out of the frig. This happened to everyone. So, instead of bringing lunch, I was eating out every day. This wasn't a problem finally because I could find a cheap lunch for $4-$6. Okay, I know that adds up over time. However, back then, it was convenient.

The problem ? I was eating burgers, pizza, fries, etc... every day. It's not a wonder my weight was through the roof. These days, I prefer bringing my own lunch because I save in calories and cost !! But, occasionally, I will eat out. No one steals from the frig here.

My lunch hour is my work-out time. Jogging, walking, Insanity or P90X. I have an awesome boss that doesn't mind if I go over my lunch hour by 15 minutes or so (I do come in about a half-hour early every morning), and there is a locker room with showers, so I don't have to be sweaty and smelly for the rest of the day. Report
Thanks for proving the great suggestions! Report
Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting for me. Pacing while on the phone or reading the mail. March in place. Any extra movement you can do will help burn more calories. Report
I use a ball for my office chair Report
My job became more inactive because I am expected to be desk jockeying at my command post, even longer hours than before.

Yes, I used to take work breaks before. Go outdoors for a walk. But not anymore.

It is a tiny office and I am in full view of co-workers ... guess I have to pretend to not being able to find something in the files (which are about 20 feet across the room, and I didn't design it as such; but it's a built-in boon) ...

A good thing about how things are designed is that the sun streams through the penthouse where this office is ... Report
We have a group that gets together twice a week during lunch for a 20-minute ab workout. Also, I pack my day's meals and snacks in the AM and then if I get the munchies, I have healthy options available to me rather than getting something from the vending machine. After work, I'm off to work out, so I pack a before and after workout snack as well so I'm not tempted to get fast food. Report
I agree with LisBet43.... although at the job I'm currently working there aren't as MANY treats that come through the often as OFTEN as my old job 2 years ago, so that makes things a little easier on me. I do bring in healthy treats and even leave some on my desk in front of my face so I can't ignore them! I don't have to go to the break room often either so I can avoid the vending machine. Plus I think those snacks cost WAY too much and my penny-pinching ways keep me from indulging. But GREAT ideas! Keep up the good work everyone! Report