7 healthier ways to spend your lunch break

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Brynna Gabrielson

HY Healthier lunch Everyday millions of UK workers are working through their lunch break, and/or are choosing to eat at their desks or on the go (YouGov/Simplyhealth Everyday Health Tracker April 2016)1. If you're one of these millions of people, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate. Taking a proper lunch break during your working day can actually help you become more productive2, and can have a positive impact on your health3! So now you know why you should take a lunch break, but if you're struggling to find something to do on your break - we've got a few ideas. Each and every one of them better than just eating a sad lunch at your desk! Due to your office location and available amenities you may or may not be able to do all of them, but hopefully a few will catch your eye!

1. Go for a walk
Walking is great for your health, and 10,000 steps a day seems to be that magic number everyone is saying we should go for including  the NHS4. If you're looking for something to do on your break, taking a walk will not only fill the time, but it will help you add more steps to your daily count! It will also give you an opportunity to soak up some Vitamin D. Make it fun and get yourself a tracker like a Fitbit so you know exactly how far you're travelling each day.

2. Read a book
Having a stressful day at the office? Try reading during your lunch break. Not only can reading a good book take you to far off and exiting lands, but it can also help you reduce stress! A 2009 survey found that after 6 minutes of reading stress levels were reduced by a whopping 68%5! Reading has other benefits too - read more about them in our article Reading for better wellbeing.

3. Head for the gym
If there's a gym near your office (or in your office if you're lucky!) using your lunch break to work out is a great idea. First of all, if you're prone to going to the gym before or after work, you'll free up some time, and secondly - working out is great for your health, both physically and mentally!

4. Enjoy your food
One big problem with eating lunch at your desk is that you're probably eating it while staring at a screen. Studies have shown that distracted eating leads to us eating more food6. Whereas if we sit, eat slowly, and savour each bite, we'll actually eat less! So just by taking your lunch away from your work space and investing time in eating it, you could stop yourself from overeating and even prevent weight gain.

5. Meditate or practice mindfulness
Your lunch break is a great opportunity to take some time to practice mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness has shown to reduce stress and improve cognitive function, among other benefits7.  For some suggestions on getting started, check out this article from Huffington Post.

6. Check in with friends
Studies show that having good friends is good for your health, so using your lunch break as an opportunity to catch up with friends is an excellent idea. After all, studies have shown that those with good social connections may actually live longer8. With the hustle and bustle of daily life it can be difficult to stay in touch with people and your lunch break is an excellent time to meet a friend for lunch or make a phone call to your bestie. With the prevalence of video chat now, you can even catch up face to face!

7. Catch up on your favourite show
It's hard to believe, but watching TV shows can be good for you! A study found that women who watched TV had less cortisol (the stress hormone) in their system9. If you have a smart phone or tablet, and your office has Wi-Fi, then why not take a break and relax with your favourite characters for an episode (or two if you have an hour break and are watching a sitcom!).

1 http://newsroom.simplyhealth.co.uk/uk-workers-demand-a-proper-lunch-break/
2 http://www.fastcompany.com/3027496/work-smart/8-reasons-why-you-should-definitely-take-that-lunch-break
3 http://www.executivestyle.com.au/take-back-your-lunch-break-2qdec
4 http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/10000stepschallenge.aspx
5 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html
6 http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/distracted-eating-may-add-to-weight-gain-201303296037
7 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/mindfulness-meditation-benefits-health_n_3016045.html
8 http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/07/having-good-friends-is-just-as-important-for-your-health-as-working-out-says-science-5607884/
9 http://darlingmagazine.org/3-surprising-reasons-watching-tv-may-be-good-for-you/

This article has been updated and was originally published 8 September 2016.