Office exercise: Add more activity to your workday
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
Finding time to exercise can be a challenge. Why not work out while you work? Consider 10 ways to add physical activity to your workday routine.
1. Start with your commute
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 a nearby lot. In your building, take the stairs rather than the elevator.
2. Stand up and work
Look for ways to get out of your chair. Stand while talking on the phone. If possible, skip instant messaging and email, and instead walk to a colleague's desk for a face-to-face chat.
3. Take fitness breaks
Rather than hanging out in the lounge with coffee or a snack, take a brisk walk, hike a few flights of stairs or do some gentle stretching. For example, face straight ahead, then lower your chin to your chest. Or, while standing, grab the back of one of your ankles — or your pant leg — and bring it up toward your buttock. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
4. Join a fitness center near your work
Make time for exercise before or after work, or during your lunch break. Consider scheduling time for your workouts on your calendar and treat them like important appointments.
5. Keep fitness gear at work
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.
6. Join forces
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.
7. Conduct meetings on the go
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.
8. Pick up the pace
If your job involves walking, do it faster. The more you walk and the quicker your pace, the greater the benefits.
9. If you travel for work, plan ahead
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 fit into a suitcase. Of course, you can do jumping jacks, crunches and other simple exercises without any equipment at all.
10. Try a treadmill desk
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, research suggests that overweight office workers who replace sitting computer time with walking computer time may lose weight and increase daily physical activity.
Want more ideas for workplace exercises? Schedule a walking meeting to brainstorm ideas with your supervisors or co-workers. Remember, any physical activity counts.
Oct. 19, 2019
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See more In-depth
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed Aug. 28, 2019.
- Get moving: Easy tips to get active! American Heart Association. https://atgprod.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Get-moving-Where-do-I-start_UCM_307978_Article.jsp. Accessed Aug. 28, 2019.
- Armiger P, et al. Stretching programs for the whole body. In: Stretching for Functional Flexibility. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2010.
- Koepp GA, et al. Treadmill desks: A 1-year prospective trial. Obesity. 2013;21:705.