These days, experts recommend we take at least 10,000 steps a day, and some have deemed sitting ‘the new smoking’. But what can we do if we’re in a mostly sedentary job that involves sitting in front of a computer all day? You don’t need to fit in a hard-core workout every day of the week – and for most of us this just isn’t possible – but a few small tricks and routine changes can make all the difference.
Here are some easy tips for incorporating more movement into your workday.
Tip 1: Change your commute – Run, walk or ride to work, even part of the way if all the way isn’t a realistic option. It’s a great way to get some exercise into your regular day. If you catch public transport, try getting off a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, and if you drive, park a little further away. It might mean setting your alarm a bit earlier, but the small amount of lost sleep is worth it.
Tip 2: Stand up – Research shows you use more muscles and burn more calories standing up than sitting down, so look for opportunities to get out of your chair whenever you can. It doesn’t need to be all day: incorporating just some periods of standing while working is beneficial. Try standing up every time you complete certain tasks – for example, while you’re talking on the phone, when people visit for a chat or when you’re reading something. You could also try a standing desk, or improvise with a high table or counter if your workplace doesn’t offer them.
Tip 3: Talk and walk – We often have to sit through meetings that stretch on longer than necessary. Research shows that walking or standing meetings can be a great way to increase efficiency. For smaller groups or one-on-ones, a walking meeting can allow you to get things done while being more active. The change of scenery may also encourage creativity.
Tip 4: Get up regularly – Take your smallest water bottle to work or use a glass, then aim to drink a certain amount of water every day. Getting up to fill your bottle or glass is a great way to incorporate a little incidental exercise. It also gives your eyes a rest if you’re sitting at a computer, and it’s a great mental boost.
Tip 5: Take the long way – When you need to leave your desk, don’t take any shortcuts – pick the longest route to get you where you’re going. It might not seem like much, but every step counts. If you can, use the bathroom on another floor, take the stairs rather than the lift, and when filling that water bottle, pick the water cooler that’s furthest away.
Tip 6: Track your steps – Activity trackers can be a great incentive to get moving. If you’ve never worn one before, try it and you may be shocked at how few steps you actually take each day unless you make the effort. Wearing a tracker (or using the step tracker on your smartphone) and incorporating even small amounts of walking – such as around the building or the block a few times a day – can go a long way to helping you meet your daily goals. Aim to increase your steps or distance a little each week.
Tip 7: Visit colleagues – How many times a day do you email someone with a question or request then wait for their response? If they’re in the same office as you, walk to their desk and resolve the issue on the spot. Not only is the movement good but the social interaction is also beneficial for your mental wellbeing.
Tip 8: Stretch – Stand up every 30 minutes or so, stretch your chest and extend your spine to reverse the effects of sitting hunched over a desk. You could take a stretch band to work and do some simple exercises. Even interlacing your fingers behind your back and stretching out your chest is helpful.
Tip 9: Don’t wait idly – Turn any waiting time into a movement opportunity. If you’re waiting for a meeting to start, or waiting at the coffee machine, photocopier or even the bathroom, do some exercises like lunges, squats or calf raises – or simply take a quick walk.
Tip 10: Take a lunch break – Instead of eating at your desk, it’s important to take a proper break. This helps boost productivity and creativity, while also providing a good opportunity to move. Take a walk outside for part of your lunch break. Even better, grab some co-workers and do a class or workout at the gym, go for a run or climb some stairs.
Tip 11: Schedule mini-breaks – In addition to your lunch break, schedule a few extra breaks throughout the day and use them to get away from your desk. If you find that you forget to move when you’re immersed in work, set a regular alarm to remind you to get up. If possible walk up some stairs or get outside, even just for five minutes. Again, the physical benefits are obvious but the mental benefits are also huge.
Tip 12: Involve others – Involving co-workers in your physical activity, whether formal or informal, is great motivation. You could organise a small office challenge such as tracking steps to see who can do the most in a day. Or you could suggest training for an upcoming fun run or charity walk together, organise a lunchtime walking group or set a group alarm to stand up each hour to stretch. It’s easier to be more active if you do it as a group – the support makes it more fun and social, and the accountability keeps you motivated.
Many of us can’t avoid spending hours sitting in front of a computer, but our health suffers. Try to incorporate some (or all!) of our tips into your workday and we know you’ll experience great physical and mental health benefits.
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