The holidays can be hard on your health, not to mention your waistline. Combining too many tasty treats with a desk job is a recipe for weight gain.
Many CPAs find it hard to get up from their chairs during the work week. “Out of an eight-hour day at the office, I would say probably six hours is spent sitting,” said Lacy Ferguson, CPA, a financial reporting and tax revenue manager at Sound Transit in Seattle.
We all know that sitting too much is harmful to your health. "We tell our clients: The more you sit, the more you lose your core and your muscle tone,” said Nancy Sawaya, a personal trainer at Structure House, a residential weight loss facility in Durham, N.C.
Prolonged inactivity causes ailments such as poor circulation, softening of bones, damage to the spinal discs and tight hips.
Ferguson has certainly felt some of those effects. “The long hours sitting at a computer just wear on the back and the shoulders,” she said.
A recent study also found that hours of inactivity from doing desk work increased heart disease and cancer risk. Another study suggests that even daily exercise might not be enough to counteract the effects of sitting more than 23 hours a week.
What’s an accounting professional to do?
Fortunately, there are some strategies that accountants can use to stay active.
Stand up: Depending on your employer, the new treadmill desk may be an option.
“This is a great idea because you're walking and you can talk on the phone,” Sawaya said. “You just have to get yourself coordinated and you could easily walk five miles during the day. Then you’re not getting that stiffness in your back, your core, your posture, and your shoulders.”
Another idea is to go lower-tech and sit your laptop on a waist-high surface, such as a bookcase or high-top table, that allows you to work standing up.
Plan it: It’s easier to remember to exercise when you schedule time on your calendar. For example, Pat Lytle, CPA, a financial reporting manager at SM Energy Co. in Denver, is diligent about prioritizing and planning his days.
“Usually I start out the week by looking at my calendar and planning the week both from a work standpoint and a personal standpoint,” Lytle said. “I can juggle the work priorities and the personal priorities of kids and family, and then make time to work out and decompress.”
Make it a twofer: Lytle and his family are fitness multitaskers: He runs with his daughters while they ride their bikes.
“It’s a good way to spend time with them and get exercise for me and it's fun for them to be able to do that with their dad,” he said. “For both me and my wife, it’s really important that we model staying in physical shape so that my daughters know how important that is to their health.”
Try, try again: Adjust exercise to fit you. Don’t let boredom derail you.
Katherine McNair, CPA, a supervisor at O’Connor Davies in Wethersfield, Conn., estimates that she spends 95% of her work day sitting. Making time to exercise can be a struggle.
“I always have an intention to exercise, then I’ll get busy and I stop,” McNair said. “I bought an elliptical last year, so that’s what I’ve been using. I’ll use it for two months, then stop, and then get back with it.”
A little entertainment while exercising can help the time pass, she found.
“On the elliptical, I usually watch TV on my iPad. I used to read on it, but then I realized I tend to go slow, so it works out well if I watch a 45-minute TV show,” McNair said. “That keeps my interest.”
Take extra steps during the day: Even those who realize how crucial it is to stay in shape, eat well, and exercise can have a hard time doing so.
“I definitely want to avoid injuries later in life that creep up after 20 years of having a sedentary lifestyle,” said Ferguson, who hunts in the fall, fishes in spring and summer, hikes year-round, runs, and cycles to work every day.
“I have to be constantly aware of where I can fit in movement in my day,” she said. “I have to really try to remember to get up or walk to the printer, or walk to talk to somebody instead of waiting to call or email them. I’ll take the stairs instead of the elevator.”
Start early: Sawaya recommends making fitness your first activity of the day, even if you’re not a morning person. At the end of the day you’re often too exhausted to work out, and before you know it you haven’t exercised at all. Make exercise a consistent part of your morning routine and “you'll find that once you get into a groove, you'll feel better,” Sawaya said. “It gives you more energy in the long run and you know you've got it done for the day.”
Get moving and you’ll stretch your muscles, improve your circulation, boost your energy and be more productive. You’ll be healthier in the long run and not gain those few extra pounds every time the holidays roll around.
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Sheon Ladson Wilson is a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.