Too much sitting and too little exercise is bad for your health. So get off your seat and make physical activity — from fitness breaks to walking meetings — part of your daily routine.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're doing your best to set aside time for physical activity, but finding time to exercise is a challenge. Why not work out while you work? Consider 10 ways to add exercise to your workday routine.

Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus or the subway, get off a few blocks early or at an earlier stop than usual and walk the rest of the way. If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot — or park in the lot for a nearby building. In your building, take the stairs rather than the elevator.

Standing burns more calories than sitting does. Look for ways to get out of your chair. Stand while talking on the phone. Skip instant messaging and email, and instead walk to a colleague's desk for a face-to-face chat.

Rather than hanging out in the lounge with coffee or a snack, take a brisk walk or do some gentle stretching. For example, face straight ahead, then lower your chin to your chest. Or, while standing, grab one of your ankles — or your pant leg — and bring it up toward your buttock. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Consider trading your desk chair for a firmly inflated fitness or stability ball, as long as you're able to safely balance on the ball. You'll improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. Use the fitness ball for wall squats or other exercises during the day.

Store resistance bands — stretchy cords or tubes that offer weight-like resistance when you pull on them — or small hand weights in a desk drawer or cabinet. Do arm curls between meetings or tasks.

Organize a lunchtime walking group. Enjoy the camaraderie of others who are ready to lace up their walking shoes. You can hold each other accountable for regular exercise — and offer encouragement to one another when the going gets tough.

When it's practical, schedule walking meetings or walking brainstorming sessions. Do laps inside your building or, if the weather cooperates, take your walking meetings outdoors.

If your job involves walking, do it faster. The more you walk and the quicker your pace, the greater the benefits.

If you're stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a brisk walk. Choose a hotel that has fitness facilities — such as treadmills, weight machines or a pool — or bring your equipment with you. Jump-ropes and resistance bands are easy to sneak into a suitcase. Of course, you can do jumping jacks, crunches and other simple exercises without any equipment at all.

If you're ready to take workplace exercise to the next level, consider a more focused walk-and-work approach. If you can safely and comfortably position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen on a stand, a keyboard on a table or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — you might be able to walk while you work.

In fact, Mayo Clinic researchers estimate that overweight office workers who replace sitting computer time with walking computer time by two to three hours a day could lose 44 to 66 pounds (20 to 30 kilograms) in a year. The pace doesn't need to be brisk, nor do you need to break a sweat. The faster you walk, however, the more calories you'll burn.

Want more ideas for workplace exercises? Schedule a walking meeting to brainstorm ideas with your supervisors or co-workers. Remember, any physical activity counts.

Feb. 08, 2014