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Everyone’s familiar with – and fears – the “Freshman 15,” the predictable 15-pound weight gain from overindulging just a little too much that first year of college. But did you know there’s a risk of history repeating itself with the “Office 15” as college graduates enter the working world?

It happened to me. My Office 15 wake-up call came in January 2012, just six months after my first day at BCBSNC, when I got my results back from our annual on-site health screening. Not only had I packed on pounds just-barely in the double digits, my total cholesterol level was astonishingly high. We’re talking higher than my dad’s – a man who’s survived two heart attacks.

Nothing had really changed since graduation day except one thing: I was sitting all day.

Transitioning to the “real world” can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re so focused on making an impression those first 90 days. It can be easy to chain yourself to your desk, even when no one is holding you hostage.

I made the mistake that first year of thinking that, in order to be perceived as a hard worker, I should be on the grind at my desk almost all day. Unlike today, I didn’t exercise during lunch or take to the nearby walking trail for some fresh air. I had to learn that stepping away and taking care of myself didn’t make me look lazy. In fact, taking breaks actually improves productivity (see tip 3).

I’m fortunate to work for a company whose commitment to health and well-being is part of its mission statement. But, no matter where you land your first gig after college, you can use these seven tips to avoid the Office 15:

  1. Get some Vitamin D and rack up those steps. Walk to your meetings in other buildings.

Coming from college, you’re used to walking all over the place to get to and from class. I really took for granted how many miles I racked up making the trek several times a day from my apartment off Franklin Street to anywhere on campus. Little did I know how good that was for my waistline back then. Luckily, BCBSNC’s newly renovated workspace in Durham makes walking our campus easy. A walking trail, covered walkways and courtyards connect the nine buildings throughout our consolidated campus. No matter where you work though, if you’ve got sidewalks and your meeting is within walking distance, resist the urge to drive. Take the true scenic route instead and enjoy the outdoors.

  1. Suggest walk-and-talks for one-on-one meetings or networking with a coworker.

Avoid the temptation to make the standard requests to chat over breakfast or lunch. I don’t know about you, but by the time I meet someone for a 9 a.m. breakfast, I’ve already downed 2 cups of coffee – one at home and one in the car – and I’ve had a bite to eat since I first woke up. A second breakfast isn’t really the wisest choice when you’re watching your post-grad weight. Instead of asking a peer to catch up over a meal, suggest a walk-and-talk. Not only will you add to your step count, you’ll save a few bucks, too.

  1. Set a reminder on your calendar to move every 52 minutes.

Instead of perusing your newsfeed for 5 minutes, take a quick walk break to the water cooler and refill. Your brain needs a break after 52 minutes, anyway. An experiment from Draugiem Group showed that employees with the highest productivity took regular breaks throughout the day, working with intense focus for 52 minutes and then stepping away to recharge.

  1. Participate in company wellness challenges.

At BCBSNC I use a company-provided Fitbit to encourage activity. There’s usually some sort of challenge going on to motivate us to boost our step count. Recently, five groups competed for six weeks to see who could outstep the rest in our Summer Olympic Challenge. The goal? Inspiring the “Olympiads” to reach at least 10,000 steps a day – that’s the American Heart Association recommendation to help reduce the risk of heart and other chronic diseases. Since we started challenges like this in 2014, more than twice as many participants reached the daily 10k step goal.

  1. Start a run club or a 5K training group.
    You don’t have to have a formal wellness challenge to get your work buds together for a sweat session. Get a run club going in your office and enjoy networking as an added bonus. If you need a little structure to get things started, check out a 5K training plan created by BCBSNC’s on-site fitness instructors. There are three eight-week training plans to match your goals.

Download the training plan that works best for you and hit the pavement:

  1. Move to a new workspace throughout the day.
    Ah, the good ol’ days of getting to pick wherever you wanted to work in between class. You probably never noticed how much activity you got by simply walking to new study spots. But, moving around all day (or lack thereof) really makes a difference.

Many companies, including BCBSNC, now use an open office, offering a variety of workspaces for employees to choose where they work. One of our summer interns, a rising senior in college, told me recently that she couldn’t imagine working any other way. Sitting in the same cube for eight hours a day just isn’t appealing. And it’s bad for you, too.

If you don’t have the flexibility to work in different spaces, you could request a sit-to-stand desk. Or, maybe you’ll get lucky and discover the hidden gem in the office, the treadmill desk.

  1. Take advantage of on-site fitness centers or reduced gym memberships.

These days, it’s commonplace for large companies to have gyms in the office. And if they don’t, they probably offer sizeable gym discount for employees.

Figure out what works with your new nine-to-five and make it stick by scheduling your workouts like you would any other meeting. My favorites are the group exercise classes at our on-site gym. Blocking that time on my calendar is key so that, for the most part, people won’t schedule a meeting on top of it.

Packing on the pounds at your new job doesn’t have to inevitable. Make conscious decisions to stay active and get moving. And don’t fret about how people will perceive you when you break away. Let your work speak for itself. For more tips, check out 10 ways to get to 10k steps a day.

Nicole Holmes

About Nicole Holmes

Nicole is a Communications Specialist at BCBSNC. She loves inspiring others through employee stories.