woman stretching at desk
woman stretching at desk

7 Ways To Fit In Fitness At Work

Posted on March 5, 2024 by Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC
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Working 40 hours a week isn’t unusual, but being tied to a desk can have devastating health effects. In fact, research suggests that sitting for 7 to 8 hours a day increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death - even among people who exercise regularly.

But don't worry: if you have a desk job, it’s possible to build physical activity into your daily routine. All it takes is a shift in your mindset and a commitment to step away from your desk. Here are seven tips to get you started.

1. Schedule breaks. 

Whether you're working from home or an office, set an alarm to remind yourself to move at least every 30 minutes. This could include taking a walk outside or around the building, getting up and stretching or even doing a series of 20 jumping jacks. If you aren't working remotely, recruit your coworkers to join you!

2. Stretch at your desk. 

When working at a desk for hours on end, stretching is essential. Roll your neck, shrug your shoulders and reach for the ceiling while wiggling your fingers. Look to the left and pause for a few seconds, then come to the center and pause, then look to the right and pause some more. Tilt your head to your right shoulder (like you’re clutching a phone), hold it for 10 seconds and switch sides. Then clasp your hands behind your back and pull to stretch out your shoulders. Give your lower half some TLC, too. Stand up and bend at the hips to touch your toes or bring your heel toward your butt and grab your ankle to stretch your quads. No matter which stretches you choose, move in a way that feels good to you. 

3. Swap your chair for a stability ball.

Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair engages your core muscles and encourages better posture. Sitting upright - without armrests or backrests - helps to tone your abdomen and promotes balance and flexibility. Take advantage of breaks, too. For instance, you can recline back on the ball and perform a quick set of crunches during a 15-minute work break.

4. Take a walk. 

Working from the office? Instead of emailing, texting or phoning a colleague, walk over to their office. Participating in a virtual call? Stand up and pace. Have a package for interoffice delivery? Walk it to where it needs to go yourself. Running office errands will not only help you stay active, but it might also boost your creativity. (Just think of all that extra blood flow going to your brain.)

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5. Maximize your lunch break.

Instead of sitting during lunch, divide your break in half. Use half the time to eat (mindfully) and the other half to squeeze in some fitness. Walk around the block, do squats or climb up and down the stairs a few times. Anything that gets your heart pumping will benefit both your body and mind. And here’s a bonus: The change of scenery and boost in activity may up your productivity.

6. Walk or bike to work. 

When the weather permits, if you live near your office, try walking or biking to work. If you live too far away, consider parking at the farthest space in the parking lot or taking a few laps around the building and climbing the stairs to get to your office. Working from home? Start and end your day with a 15-minute walk through your neighborhood. 

7. Invest in a fitness tracker.

Wearing a fitness tracker can be remarkably motivating and can help you track and continuously increase the number of steps you take daily. They'll even remind you to get up and start moving if you've been sitting for too long. 

With busy workdays and at-home responsibilities, finding time to exercise can be challenging. But once you see that squeezing in fitness doesn’t have to mean spending 60 to 90 minutes at the gym, the options are endless.


Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC, is the Director of Athletic Training and Community Outreach at Henry Ford Health. Read more of Christina's articles.
Categories : MoveWell
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