Five easy changes for better health now

These small adjustments to your workday can add up to a happier, healthier you.

The typical IT worker's stress-filled, sedentary lifestyle can amount to a hamster-wheel of ill-health (see "Health hazards for IT workers" for details). Want to hop off? Here's how.

Move more

Vow to find a 30-minute window at least three times a week to get some sort of exercise. Schedule "exercise meetings" just as you would a conference call or doctor's appointment. Follow Computerworld blogger Mike Elgan's cell-phone-based exercise program, or start a walking program in your office -- the American Heart Association's Start! walking-at-work program offers a free place online to track your daily physical activity and dietary intake and create personal walking maps.

Sit up straight

Your mom was right -- posture matters. Use a sticky note on your computer screen, or set an electronic alarm on your computer, mobile phone or PDA to remind yourself to sit up straight and to take frequent breaks for stretching and other posture exercises. If you're a gadget freak, check out products like The Perfect Posture Shirt, a biofeedback shirt designed by Boston Celtics chief medical officer Brian McKeon.

Do the (caloric) math

It's a simple equation: To avoid gaining weight over time, you need to burn as many calories as you take in. If you find yourself putting on pounds, sometimes just a moderate reduction in the calories you consume can bring you back into caloric balance. Start by checking out the American Heart Association's calorie table to estimate what your caloric needs are. Next, pick one meal to make over first: Use a smaller plate to reduce portion size, split an entrée with a friend or eat one less roll at dinner -- whatever the sacrifice, if you do it consistently, it can become a habit and lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Go meatless for one meal

Try substituting high-fiber beans and other legumes for meat and dairy for just one meal a week. A plant-based diet is usually lower than nonvegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer, according to the American Heart Association. How to begin? Try a bean burrito (skip the sour cream) instead of a meatball sub, or choose black bean soup from the company cafeteria.

Snack better

Keep low-fat snacks like carrots and raisins and high-fiber, portable protein like nuts at the ready in your desk or the office fridge to fend off afternoon calorie cravings. Not that organized? At least make a wise choice from the office vending machine (see Forbes' list of healthiest vending-machine snacks), and talk to the office manager if your vending machine serves up only junk.

Next: Graphic: Head-to-toe hazards of the desk-bound body

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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