Lots of people have nice cushy jobs where they work in an office and get to sit at a computer all day. Much better than digging ditches or cutting timber, right? In some ways, yes, but a lot of research points to our sedentary work habits increasing our chances for a number of diseases and health problems. Obviously having so much time sitting reduces the calories we burn in a day, which can increase our weight. So what can you do about it? Plenty! Here’s five areas you can use to improve your fitness while keeping that nice office job.
Sit Less/Walk More
This one sounds a little obvious, doesn’t it? Get out of your chair more often and move around. But let’s talk about some specific tips. How about increasing your time walking by changing your commute? Park your car farther from the office. Instead of the closest spot in the parking lot, pick the farthest. Or even part a few blocks away and walk. If you live reasonably close to work you can walk or bike the entire way. If you take public transportation, just get off a few stops early. Maybe take the stairs instead of the elevator.
When you take phone calls, stand up and walk a bit. If you are on a cell phone you can walk where you like, and you can get a wireless headset to give you more mobility using your desk phone. Instead of using email or a chat program, get up and walk to the person’s desk and talk to them there. Walk to lunch, walk to get coffee, walk to use the printer or copier. You can even start having walking meetings, strolling through the office or heading outside for a trip around the block.
Sit Better or Stand
No matter how many ideas there are for turning more office time into walking time, you will have to be at your desk quite a bit. When you are at that desk, make sure you sit with good posture. Adjust your chair ergonomically, position your monitors with a third of the screen above eye level, and sit correctly with your feet flat on the floor and your elbows bent at 90 degrees. You can enhance your sitting by getting a chair specially designed to help you strengthen your core and improve your posture. There are add ons like special cushions that make you adjust and build core strength. And most people have seen the exercise ball used as a chair, a great way to improve posture and strengthen you body.
As much as sitting can be improved, standing more is better than sitting. So look into standing desks, where you can raise the level of your work surface to let you stand straight and do your job. You can also invest in a standing pad to give better cushioning for your feet, but many recommend just buying better shoes to give you that support. Most standing desks can convert between standing and sitting, and you can split your time and gradually increase your standing time as your body adjusts. You can really go all out by getting a treadmill and turning it into a tread desk (or purchasing a preconfigured tread desk) that lets you walk as you work.
Breaks for Workouts
A cheaper alternative is to simply take breaks during the day to get a little exercise. Two things you might not realize is how often you should break and how low impact your exercises can be. Taking a short break every hour or even half-hour is probably the most beneficial. And all that is necessary is a little movement to get your blood flowing better. You don’t need to break a sweat or elevate your heart rate substantially. Just stretching for a few minutes or walking in place will be enough, although you can do more if making faster progress toward fitness appeals to you.
Exercise at Your Desk
If you like the idea of multitasking, you can invest in a little bit of exercise equipment you can use while sitting or standing at your desk and working. The tread desk was mentioned before, but there are under desk elliptical machines and stationary bicycles available as well. So as you type you can be burning off some extra calories without disturbing your coworkers or interrupting your flow.
Drink More Water
This is one that you’ve heard many times. To stay fit, to lose weight, to stay healthy, drink more water. A common recommendation is an 8 ounce glass of water 8 times a day. If you need reminding, there are timers for your computer, for your phone, for your smartwatch, even ones that attach to your glass, that will remind you to take a sip every so often. Water is the best liquid to drink, and you can add some natural flavoring to it if you like, lemon or cucumber for example.
Some high quality office water coolers provide sparkling water as well.
There are artificial flavorings, and diet drinks, which are not as healthy, but certainly are better than dehydration. Oh, and a sneaky advantage to drinking so much water? You’ll need to get up and walk more often. Your trip to the restroom is one thing no assistant can take care of for you.
So that’s five areas you can use to get more fit while working in an office. If you find you need some extra motivation you can get a group together at work for mutual support. If you work alone or in a home office, you might try getting your own domain and writing a blog featuring your plans to improve your fitness. Talking about it and publishing commitments can inspire you, and your readers can give you encouragement. Whatever you do, whether it’s just drinking water and standing up for five minutes every hour or investing in a tread desk and biking to work, remember this is for your health and fitness. Even a little extra movement each day can improve your mood, control your weight, and reduce your chance of diseases like diabetes. You are worth it!