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How To Stay Fit With An Office Or Computer Job

Jan 8, 2008
"I live in the American Gardens Building on W. 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I'm 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I'll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now."

- Patrick Bateman, "American Psycho" (2000)

Back in the day, it was easy for young professionals to stay fit. If you're anything like Patrick Bateman here, can you too use a combination of diet, rigorous exercise, stomach crunches and facial cream to stay fit and look young?

Becoming a "professional" is a massive change from your student lifestyle. Those convenient breaks in between classes when you went running or went to the gym no longer exist. Now you have coffee breaks where you go to Starbucks and get 200 calorie lattes. And you feel compelled to eat out all the time and order expensive dinners.

On top of all that, you're stationary for most of the day. If you could walk even an hour a day, you would burn around 300 calories. But will you have an hour a day? Here's how you can stay in shape when you have minimal time and are surrounded by unhealthy habits/food.

What You Eat

It's easy to get lured into ordering $30 ribs each night when you can expense it or when everyone else is doing the same. Instead, order healthier choices like salmon, lean chicken and vegetables. People in the workplace tend to have a herd mentality and will mock you at first. Ignore them. After a few months you can mock them when their pants no longer fit.

As far as other dinner foods, sushi is generally ok to order from restaurants. It's hard to add calories and fat to food that is uncooked to begin with. Also consider going to grocery stores like Whole Foods for dinner. Going to other places to eat also forces you to walk and get physical activity.

Aside from dinner, always eat breakfast and try to eat 6-7 small meals throughout the day rather than eating just a huge dinner and junk food throughout the day. If you have to, spend a little extra on groceries and bring your own food. Fruits, vegetables and yogurt are all good snacks.

What You Do

As a young professional, often the only part of the day you own is the morning. So if you work out or run, try to do it long before you have to be at work. Find a gym that is open 24/7 and use that for all your exercise needs.

If you have a job where you need to stay late every night and can't wake up early, go on the weekends or work out a time to go during the day. If you do it consistently, your managers should be fine with it.

Having an athletic office also helps a great deal - some offices will play sports together or do other activities on the weekends. Beyond just the benefits of exercise, this is also a good way to get to know others outside the context of work.

Try to take quick walking breaks every hour or whenever you can do so. If your friends always go to Starbucks, walk with them but don't order anything or just get tea.

What You Don't Do

What to avoid is almost as important as what to do when you're trying to maintain your health.

Drugs, alcohol and smoking.

It's just like D.A.R.E. back in elementary school, except now you're avoiding them because they'll make you fat. Alcohol in particular can be hard to avoid since your friends will want to go out and drink all the time. If you can't avoid it altogether, do it in moderation. I very rarely have more than a glass of wine now, and people don't even notice that I don't drink much.

No matter what you do, you will most likely get more out of shape from spending so much of your time in an office. By following the recommendations above, though, you can lessen the impact on your health and stay in relatively good shape.
About the Author
Ian Spellfield, a former investment banker, advises students and young professionals on how to get investment banking jobs and how to stay healthy and maintain their sanity and their careers.
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