Think you don’t have the time?
Although we hear about the health benefits of regular exercise all the time, hectic schedules can make it seem impossible to fit workouts in. The prospect of packing a gym bag, trudging to your local gym, working out, showering, changing, and trudging back to where you came from takes an awful lot of time.
But you aren’t doing yourself any favors by disregarding your health.
When you neglect exercise, you’re putting both your physical and your mental health at risk, which can negatively impact your productivity and effectiveness at work.
One great solution? Work physical activity into your everyday routine. In fact, researchers found that people who exercise during the workday are actually more productive at work, even though they technically logged fewer hours.
An office workout can vary widely in type and intensity – from swapping your desk chair out for a stability ball to going for a run during your lunch break. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Turn your commute into a workout.
The time you spend commuting is already time you’re logging each and every day. So why not turn that time into a workout?
There are ways to incorporate exercise into every type and length of commute. If you live fairly close by, try speed walking, jogging or cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transportation. Be sure to check for the best and safest routes in your location.
If that distance is too daunting, try parking some distance away from work or getting off the bus or subway a few stops earlier than normal to walk or jog the rest of the way.
Doing exercise during your commute instead of just sitting there will make you feel good while helping you keep fit, even in winter. You just have to dress properly for it.
Replace your desk chair with a stability ball
Ever seen someone in an office environment sitting on what looks like an exercise ball in lieu of a chair? It’s not for comfort or looking cool – 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.
Take short “active breaks” during the workday
On really busy days, you can still work out in short breaks by getting up, stretching your legs, and walking around. It’s all about making movement a natural part of your day.
Taking short breaks to be active, even if you’re just walking, will help you shed extra calories and help you concentrate during the time when you are working.
When you reach a breaking point, make a point of moving around – like a 10-minute walk around your building, or up and down the stairs – instead of sitting at your desk checking e-mail. This can have both long- and short-term positive effects on your mood:
Pace while you’re on the phone
Chances are, you spend most of your day sitting down. Unless you need to be on your computer at the same time, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to stand up and move while you’re on a call. Every extra step counts, and it’ll be a welcome break for your back and your muscles.
Remember: Physical activity doesn’t have to be formal exercise to have its benefits: Even simple, unconscious fidgeting is good for your muscles and can burn some calories. Plus, you may find that the movement helps keep you focused and alert.
Speed walk your errands
In the spirit of turning activities you’re going to do anyway into little exercise routines, try speed walking your errands. This is an easy way to make movement a natural part of your day, and it means having a lot of errands to run won’t cause you to miss a workout.
And, while you’re at it, don’t use a shopping cart. Human beings are designed to lift and carry things. Remember: Beneficial exercise happens in more places than the gym.
Go the long way
Here’s another way to add movement to your day: Take the long way when you have a few moments to spare. This might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from your office, or going to the bathroom that’s across the building instead of right by your desk. After all, studies show that regular, low-intensity exercise such as walking can help boost energy levels – especially in people who suffer from fatigue, as counterintuitive as that sounds. Plus, think about how all of those extra steps add up after months and even years.
Stretch at regular intervals
The prospect of stretching at your work desk might seem really awkward, but we’re not suggesting you do squats at your desk. 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.