How to Prevent a Sedentary Lifestyle After College

When I was in college I felt like I was always in motion. Whether it was riding my bike to class or playing intramural sports, it always felt good to be taking care of my body’s physical fitness just through regular habits I had created. After I graduated college and started my first desk job I began to sit for the majority of the day and it took a toll on my body. I had begun living a sedentary lifestyle. There would be the hour long commute, eight plus hours at my desk and sometimes three or four more hours sitting in class at night school for my graduate degree. There were days that I sat for 16 of my 17 waking hours. Within months I started to develop back problems and just felt unhealthy compared to my college self. Below are the tactics I used to help prevent creating a sedentary lifestyle for myself after college.

Be Active Outside of Work

The best way to combat the feeling that your adult self is becoming sedentary is to make commitments to be active. These commitments can be to you, other people or sports teams.

One of the first things I did when I started my first job was look for sports teams that I could join in the area. I knew that building an exercise habit for me would be easier if the activities were enjoyable and involved other people. Through work resources I found soccer teams to play on that kept me active and I met some new people that became friends as well.

Signing up for a race or event with coworkers or friends is another great technique to stay active. You will be motivated to train for it and the people you are competing in it with will keep you accountable to your training for it. There is no way I would have been able to complete a half marathon without the help and encouragement from my coworkers that ran it with me.

Take the Long Road

It is extremely easy to pick up the habit of being lazy after college. When you are first starting off on your own, bad habits can be easily made if you are not careful. The easier route is usually the least healthy way to approach parts of life such as diet and exercise.

When I was growing up my mother packed my lunches each day and made dinner for me every night. While I was in college I had an unlimited meal plan so I never had to think about getting groceries. I wasn’t used to preparing healthy food for myself and the result was that I ate badly during my summer internships in college. I was being too frugal when I went grocery shopping and I always ended up in the check out line with multiple frozen pizzas for $2 a piece.

I avoided fast food and packed my lunches each day for work, but I could have started healthier habits earlier by learning how to cook more meals on my own that didn’t go right from the cardboard box to the oven.

Be Conscious of Habits

Unhealthy habits can be built quickly when you enter a new environment like the first job after college. Think to yourself how you can prevent bad habits from developing and creating positive ones.

  • Get up from your desk at work at least once an hour to stretch.
  • Try to take your lunch break as a walk around your office or better yet, outside.
  • Carry a shoulder bag/satchel and eat your lunch from it as you walk.
  • Keep healthy snacks like almonds at your desk instead of buying chips from a vending machine.
  • Drink a lot of water and avoid addictions to caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda.
  • Track your eating habits on a site such as Daily Burn.

Visualize the Future You

By thinking about what kind of shape you want to be in one, ten or fifty years from now you may realize that you are not headed down the correct path. When I thought of how skinny and scrawny I would look in my wedding pictures I immediately wanted to start a work out routine. When I can’t rough house with my niece and nephew because my back hurts I am motivated to work on making it stronger.

Posting reminders or pictures for how to you want to look can help you stay on track. It might be a picture of someone famous you want the body type of or just a few words like “Get Off Your Butt!” Do whatever it takes to get you moving regularly.

Be Happier

Exercise is proven to release endorphins in your brains that can make you happier. It can turn a sour mood into a positive one. If you don’t believe this, just give it a try. The next time you are feeling down about something or are frustrated after a day of work, push your body to the limit. Go for a run, swim or bike ride and get your heart pumping.

These simple techniques can create habits that will help prevent you from developing a sedentary life after college or change environments. What type of systems do you put in place to combat in activity? What do you like to do to stay active?

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