Let’s make an effort to get moving at work.
I know, it’s hard. It’s hard to motivate yourself to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine, whether it is a brisk walk in the early morning or hitting the gym sometime after work. You are well aware that regular physical activity would benefit your health. But, if you are like the average American who works a desk job, you just don’t do it. According to the World Health Organization, about 60% to 85% of people who live in developed or developing countries around the world live sedentary lifestyles (1). Take a moment and think about how much time in a day you spend sitting down: while at work on the computer, while eating food, watching television, and so on. All of that time adds up very quickly.
What makes this lifestyle even worse is the fact that sitting down for excessive periods of time kills you - not quite literally, but it’s definitely not helping your body. About 2 million deaths per year are due to a lack of physical activity (1). Research has shown that time spent in sedentary behaviors was positively correlated with mortality, obesity, and diabetes risk (2, 3). The connection was strongest between prolonged TV watching and the negative effects of mortality, obesity, and so forth (3). In addition, study participants who did moderate-vigorous physical activity throughout the week were not able to fully protect against the health risks associated with prolonged TV watching (4).
So, one thing you can do to combat the adverse effects of inactivity is to take a few, simple steps. While you are at work, there are things you can do to get moving. Try out some of these exercises the next time you are in the office:
- Stand up from your chair every 1 hour. Take a moment and get up from your chair. That’ll give you a quick stretch and a way to get your blood flowing properly in your legs. If you are desk is maneuverable, you can change between sitting mode and standing mode.
- Do leg raises under your desk. Lift up your leg under your desk and hold it straight for about 10 seconds. Put your leg down and then hold up the other one for 10 seconds. Do as many repetitions as is relatively comfortable for you.
- Stand on one leg. Stand on one leg for one minute and then switch sides. This is good for balance and strengthening the small stabilizer muscles in your feet and legs.
- Move your arms around. Lift your arms out to your sides and move them in circles. It’ll look a little like you are trying to catch your balance.
- Shoulder shrugs. Raise your shoulders up to your ears. Hold them there for about 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat this 10 times, or as many times as you want.
- Opt for the stairs. If there are stairs available on your way to the office, try taking them as often as you can. You need to head to the restroom? Go ahead and use the restroom on another floor. You have to talk with a coworker on another floor? Instead of using Slack, get on your feet and talk to him or her in person.
- Seat clenches. This one might seem a bit out there, but it’s a really simple exercise. While in your seat, clench your butt and hold for 5 seconds. Then relax for 5 seconds and repeat.
- Make a double chin. Push your chin as far back as you can, forming a double chin. Hold this position for about 5 seconds and then extend your chin forward. Repeat 10 times.
- Take fitness breaks. If possible, you can try taking fitness breaks where you go to an empty hallway or break room and do some exercises. You can do some light jogging in place or do some stretches.
- Get your arm stretches in. Stretch your arms up towards the ceiling and then bring them behind your back. Hold them there for 5 seconds, making sure to feel the stretch in your shoulders. Then relax.
- Roll it to the side. Lightly roll your neck from right to left, holding each position for as long as is comfortable.
Most of these exercises are not very obvious, so you don’t have to worry about bothering your coworkers. They are easy to do but can greatly help to change up your routine and break sedentary behavior. And even better, recruit your co-workers! At Health by Principle, we often take walks around our office building, and use sit-stand desks. Getting your blood flowing daily at work with these simple exercises can help you live healthier and have better energy.
1. Prakash, Reshma. “Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO.” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/release23/en/
2. Matthews, C. E., George, S. M., Moore, S. C., Bowles, H. R., Blair, A., Park, Y., … Schatzkin, A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(2), 437–445. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.019620
3. Hu, F.B., Li, T.Y., Colditz, G. A., et al. (2003). Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women. JAMA, 289(14), 1785-1791. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1785
4. Sui, X., Brown, W. B., Lavie, C. J., West, D. S., et al. (2015). Prospective study of the associations between television watching and car riding behaviors and development of depressive symptoms. Mayo Clinic Proc 90(20), 184-193. doi: 1016/j.mayocp.2014.12.006.
5. Dolan, Michele. “How to Exercise at Work Every Day.” Wikihow.fitness, 2019. https://www.wikihow.fitness/Exercise-at-Work-Every-Day
6. Milam, Emily. “Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise at Work.” Greatist.com, 2014. https://greatist.com/fitness/deskercise-33-ways-exercise-work
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