It can be incredibly tough to stay fit and healthy when you’re stuck behind a desk all day. Most workplaces aren’t designed to support regular fitness habits, leaving it up to you to find clever ways to stay active while working a rigid 9-5 job.
While some busy professionals don’t even bother to juggle fitness and a day job, it’s important to note that the consequences of skipping workouts could be dire. According to a 2018 study published in JAMA Network Open, being sedentary comes with a higher risk of premature death and disease—even higher than smoking.
The good news is that there are several ways you can sneak in exercise throughout the day, no matter how busy things get at work. Give these daily workouts a try and, before you know it, your sneaky workouts will become a new habit that keep you fit and happy for the long-term.
Rethink Your Commute
Walking or biking to work is an easy way to get in your daily exercise, especially during the pleasant summer months. Before you say that your work is located too far away, park your excuses somewhere else—literally.
Hook your bike up to your car and park within a reasonable distance from your workplace. From there, bike or walk the rest of the way to work and you’ll end up boosting your fitness and saving gas money to boot.
If you walk or bike to work, don’t forget to apply a daily moisturizer with SPF on your face before you step out the door. In addition to reducing your risk of skin cancer, wearing daily SPF of 20 or higher will help keep premature wrinkles at bay.
Do Yoga Stretches at Your Desk
Once you arrive at work, start off the day with a few yoga poses at your desk. Practice the Pigeon Pose by placing your shin on the edge of your desk, bending forward slightly at your hips before repeating on the other side. Or, close your palms together and raise them above your head in a Palm Tree Pose.
A seated spinal twist is also super easy to do and incredibly discreet. Sit sideways in your desk chair and twist your torso, holding the back of your desk chair with both hands.
While the health benefits of yoga are vast, one benefit in particular may help those with a regular desk job. In a 1998 study published in JAMA, yoga was found to improve grip strength and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition which often results from repetitive tasks such as typing, cleaning and assembly line work.
3. Invest in a Fitness Tracker
Sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your mental or physical well-being. Unfortunately, time has a bad habit of slipping away from us when we’re swamped with work.
To help hold you accountable, invest in a quality fitness tracker that reminds you to move throughout the day. You don’t need to do a full workout every time it sends an alert—just stand up and do a few stretches before sitting back down at your desk.
Consider combining your fitness tracker with a mood tracking app. You might be surprised at how much your mood improves by staying active throughout the day.
Suggest a Different Type of Happy Hour
If you’re like many professionals, you never skip a happy hour event because you know that it’s crucial for networking. But who says that happy hour needs to be a gluttonous occasion?
Skip the sugar-laden drinks and fatty appetizers by suggesting a physical activity instead. Your work group may jump at the chance to get in the park and play a competitive game of kickball. If the weather is looking grim, take a group fitness class instead.
Take on More Grunt Work
Grunt work is generally described as the work that no one else wants to do. It’s boring, repetitive and gets old quickly.
While it may not sound fun, volunteering for certain types of grunt work can provide the perfect excuse to step away from your desk and get moving. Simple tasks such as moving boxes, tidying up the office and even standing up to go make copies or get coffee for someone can add steps and burn calories.
Besides, no one is beneath grunt work. Tackling a few menial tasks every now and again won’t put you at a disadvantage of a potential promotion. In fact, your supervisors might see your willingness to do the hard work as a positive attribute.
Take Your Meetings to Go
If you regularly meet with one or two coworkers every week, consider asking them to have a walking meeting instead. When the day is nice, it’s the perfect excuse for you and your coworkers to take a 15- or 20-minute stroll while discussing work matters.
Need help selling the idea of a walking meeting to your boss? Point to the abundance of studies that highlight the many brain benefits that a brisk walk can provide.
According to a 2006 study published in the Journals of Gerontology, researchers found that aerobic exercise increased both grey and white matter in the brain. Grey matter is especially important, given its essential role in decision-making, memory, speech and other key functions.
Turn Your Office into a Pop-Up Gym
If you’re lucky enough to have your own office, take advantage by keeping some fitness equipment on-hand. You don’t need to have an entire gym in your office. Stick to a few dumbbells beneath your desk, swap your desk chair for a stability ball and keep a fitness mat in the corner of your room for a fast workout.
Stuck in an open office cubicle? Skip the equipment and practice isometric workouts instead. Isometric exercise is a type of movement which focuses on a particular muscle group. These exercises might include repeatedly flexing your abdominal muscles while you take care of your inbox or practicing wall sits while on a phone call.
Making Time for Fitness at Work
As you can see, it’s not too difficult to slip in a workout at your desk or on your way to work. Just be sure to keep your workouts short and sweet to avoid getting too sweaty or out of breath.
While smaller exercises may not feel like they’re doing much good in the moment, rest assured that your body and mind are both benefiting from them. Small workout sessions add up quickly, allowing you to reap the health benefits of regular fitness while freeing up time in your busy work day.