We hear about the health benefits of regular exercise all the time, but let’s face it, our busy schedules can make it seem impossible to fit workouts in. You might think that the only option is packing a gym bag, driving to the gym, working out, showering, changing- and that can take up a ton of time. When you factor in your time at the office plus the time it takes to attend to your personal and household needs, carving out time for the gym may seem like a luxury that will ultimately just add to your stress.
But you aren’t doing yourself any favors by disregarding your body’s need to move. When you neglect exercise, you’re putting both your physical and mental health at risk, which can negatively impact your productivity and effectiveness at work.
So how do we reconcile the need for exercise with our need to be efficient with our time? We’ve put together a list of 5 ways you can work physical activity into your everyday routine. Researchers in Sweden found that people who exercise during the workday are actually more productive at work, even though they technically work fewer hours.
Office workouts can vary widely in type and intensity – from taking a few extra stairs instead of the elevator, to going for a run during your lunch break, or participating in office fitness classes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1) Work out at lunch.
If you can’t work out before or after work, lunchtime is your next best bet for fitting in a real workout into your busy schedule. If your office has a gym or offers fitness classes, you have convenient on-site options. If not, you might go for a half-hour run or a speed walk around your neighborhood or in a nearby mall. This one may take a little pre-planning, like packing a gym bag, but once you get in the habit, it will seem like no big deal. If you have trouble staying motivated to devote lunchtime to a workout, find a friend at work with similar health goals and make them your lunchtime workout buddy. Just make sure that you still find time to eat during your workday- especially if you work out!
2) Get active on your commute.
The time you spend commuting is non-negotiable each and every day. So why not turn that time into a workout opportunity?
There are several ways to incorporate exercise into every type and length of commute. If you live close to work, try walking, jogging, or cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transportation. If you feel that you’ll sweat too much for comfort with this method, choose a lighter form of activity (such as walking instead of jogging) and bring your work clothes in a small backpack to change into when you get there.
If you live far away from work, try finding a new parking spot some distance away from the office (at a park-and-ride or garage, for example), or getting off the bus or subway a few stops earlier than normal to walk the rest of the way.
3) Replace your desk chair with a stability ball.
You have probably seen someone at your office or on TV who sits on a large inflatable ball rather than a chair. It’s not just for fun- there are actually a lot of health benefits that come with sitting on stability balls at work.
For one, it helps you practice better posture by forcing proper spine alignment. Why? Because your body is constantly trying to balance itself on the ball, and a seated position with proper spine alignment is the easiest to balance with.
Sitting on a stability ball also strengthens your abdominal muscles because those are the muscles your body uses to compensate for changes in balance. Basically, you’re getting a low-intensity abdominal workout every time you sit down — and those hours add up.
One study found that children’s ability to pay attention increases when they sit on stability balls. While no studies have been done on how stability balls affect adults’ attention, it’s possible it would have the same effect on us.
4) Pace while you’re on the phone.
Chances are, you spend most of your day sitting down. Unless you need to be on the computer simultaneously, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to stand up and move around while you’re on the phone. Every extra step counts, and it’ll be a welcome break for your muscles.
Remember: Physical activity doesn’t have to be formal to have its benefits: Even simple, unconscious fidgeting is good for your muscles and can burn some calories. Also, you may find that the movement helps keep you focused and alert.
5) Stretch at your desk.
The prospect of stretching at your desk might seem awkward, but we’re not suggesting you twist yourself into complicated yoga poses. There are plenty of stretches you can do either sitting down or standing up that can help ward off pain and stiffness while boosting your energy and alertness.
If possible, take a few intervals throughout the day and devote them to doing light movement (such as circling your wrists or extending your legs) or stretches – even if they’re just for a minute. Those minutes add up! One of the easiest and most effective parts of the body to stretch when you’re at your desk is the neck. Check out OmBody Health’s short neck stretch video for a routine you can do pretty much any time anywhere.
How do you stay active at work? I’d love to know: comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Julia Workman, CYT
Julia is an experienced yogi, teacher and dancer with a passion for wellness. As the Fitness Program Director OmBody Health, she designs and implements Yoga and fitness programs for our corporate clients. She also teaches powerful workshops that guide busy people toward healthier work/life integration.