You know how it goes: According to your Sunday night plan for tackling the week ahead, you’ll get up extra early to work out, cook breakfast, pack a healthy lunch and head to work.
Of course, come Monday morning, you’re hitting the snooze button on the alarm and rushing out the door. Further, you may feel too sluggish to work out, or you might be dealing with ongoing pain.
It doesn’t help that most professionals work desk jobs. According to a 2013 study by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), two-thirds of U.S. office workers experience physical pain on the job with some frequency, and staying seated for long hours is one reason for that. (You can calculate the amount of time you spend sitting each day at JustStand.org.)
“Sitting at a desk all day can take a serious toll on your body, and with busy work schedules and full family lives, many office workers don’t seek help to prevent or treat their pain until it reaches the point where it interferes with their ability to do their job without the added distraction of constant pain,” said Dr. Rob Danoff, an AOA board-certified family physician with Aria Jefferson Health.
Exercising seems nearly impossible to fit into a hectic schedule, especially one that requires you to sit for most of the day; however, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few ways you can incorporate movement into your daily routine, even with a desk job.
Take the stairs
A simple switch is to use the stairs as opposed to the elevator. Doing so each day makes a difference and “will help burn a few extra calories as well get your heart pumping and your blood flowing,” according to Brendan Weafer, Workweek Wellness CEO and founder.
This is especially true if your work is located on a higher floor in a tall building. However, if it’s too much for you to walk the entire way, Weafer advised taking the elevator for part of the way, and then walking whatever distance is comfortable.
Stand up and stretch
Take breaks whenever possible, whether it’s to grab a cup of coffee, use the restroom or buy lunch.
Instead of emailing or calling a colleague, walk over and speak with him or her in person. For longer conversations, the AOA advises holding a walking meeting. “We often get preoccupied and sucked into our workday trying to get everything done but get reinvigorated by getting up once an hour and moving a little bit,” said Weafer. “Even walking to the kitchen and getting a glass of water can be enough to wake you up. It’s a two to three-minute break that helps increase your energy levels and even increases your productivity.”
According to the AOA, employees should set an alarm on their calendar or phone for every 30 minutes as a reminder to take a break to stretch. Any amount of activity is better than none.
If you really want to challenge yourself, Weafer suggests walking one mile during your lunch break. Doing so will keep you energized and upbeat, especially if you can get in some extra sunshine.
Take advantage of your office
For those days you can’t catch a break, try simple workouts at your desk.
According to Weafer, a desk is a great platform you can use to stretch your shoulders. You can use your desk to do a downward dog stretch and dip stretches. It also provides stability for exercises like calf raises and chair squats.
Weafer suggests this particular workout:
- Set a timer for 30 seconds.
- Go back and forth between performing a chair squat (which entails pretending that you’re sitting in your chair and then standing up) and doing a desk dip stretch (Stretching the front side of your shoulder on your desk) for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this for 3 to 5 minutes.
“It’s an easy workout that can be done at your desk, leaving you feeling looser and energized,” Weafer said.
If you’re serious about squeezing exercise into your workday, be consistent and create a community with a similar, supportive mindset. Weafer advised finding someone in your office who understands the importance of taking time out during the day to move, and holding each other accountable for staying active. There are endless ways to burn some calories and get work done while doing so, he said, and it’s always more fun with a partner.