Every day over half of office workers eat lunch at their desks. In fact, you might be eating a sandwich or bowl of soup right now, and you’re clearly not alone. The impetus to work through the midday meal is clear: To your boss, eating in front of your computer shows commitment. To you, typing between forkfuls of salad is hopefully a quicker means to an end, the “end” being the end of the workday. But even if you’re eating all the right things—a healthy blend of fiber, protein, and fat, followed by a chaser of H2O—you’re still doing your body a disservice by staying in your seat.
Here are five reasons you should steer clear of eating at your desk and opt to dine somewhere—pretty much anywhere—else:
1. You eat more. You know how sometimes you start eating lunch and then, a few minutes later, you realize you’re on your last bite? This is “distracted eating” or “mindless eating,” and it’s just one reason America’s obesity problem is on the rise. By eating while preoccupied with TV, Internet, or a spreadsheet, your body and brain don’t properly process the amount of food you consume. As a result, the hormone leptin is often late to signaling the brain that it’s time to stop eating, meaning you take in more calories than you need to to feel satisfied.
2. You make poorer food choices. People who sit at their desk for lunch are more apt to consume fattening foods all day long. That means less-healthy choices at lunch and more trips to the vending machine later in the day. That’s hundreds of extra calories, all because you didn’t want to push back your desk chair and find a new place to graze!
3. You sit for longer. Sure, you may have to walk to and from the office kitchen to bring your lunch back to your desk. But if you eat in the office lunch room, you might stop to chat with a colleague in the hallway or otherwise break up your sitting time. If you find an offsite venue to eat—be it a nearby restaurant or brown-bagging it at a local park—you’ll do even more for your health by adding extra steps. Even standing next to your desk to eat is a lot better than sitting at it, although you may get some funny looks.
4. Your brainstorming becomes blah. Stuck on a problem at work? Getting up for a walk during the day—say, on your way to lunch—can actually help you return to the office feeling refreshed. People who are tasked with thinking about creative uses for everyday objects while walking come up with more ideas than people brainstorm while sitting.
5. You miss out on socializing. Eating away from your desk makes it more likely that you’ll socialize, something that is good for your happiness, your health, and your company’s bottom line. Research has found that some of the benefits of socializing are similar to that of exercise—you usually feel better after a good bout, have lower stress and blood pressure levels, and you may be less likely to suffer from depression. But one study from MIT found that office workers who socialize tend to be around 10 perecent more productive than those who don’t. So if your boss gives you a hard time for taking a well-deserved break over the lunch hour, wow them with that fact.