Get More Physical Activity During the Workday - Even if You Have a Desk Job
Research into the risks of inactivity have led health experts to proclaim that “sitting is the new smoking.” When you have a desk job, even regular trips to the gym may not be enough to counteract the workdays filled with nonstop sitting. Prolonged inactivity can lead to short-term issues like back and neck pain, as well as slow down your metabolism and put you at higher risk of obesity or heart disease. As scary as that sounds, a desk job doesn’t sentence you to a life of health issues - you just have to find small but consistent ways to increase your activity levels throughout the day.
Get moving during the workdays with these tips for fitting in physical activity, even with a desk job:
- Squeeze Extra Steps Into Your Commute
Your trip in and out of work is a prime opportunity for more physical activity. Walking or biking to work is obviously a great way to do so if you live nearby. If forgoing a vehicle isn't a possibility, consider parking your car farther away or getting off public transportation at an earlier stop, and then walking the rest of the way in.
- Track Your Steps
There are more options than ever to track your steps, from smartphones that have the capabilities built right in, to high tech activity trackers, to inexpensive pedometers. Commit to tracking the number of steps you take in a work day, and then set a goal for how many steps you want to reach. It can be very eye-opening to see how low your step count is during the average workday, but very motivating to figure out small and creative ways to increase it.
- Take Regular Breaks
Avoid sitting at your desk for more than an hour at a time. Once an hour (or whatever is realistic for you), get up and take a quick walk to somewhere nearby. It's not about how far you walk throughout the day, it's how often you do so. Consistently take some steps (or at least stand up and move your legs within your desk area) to give your body the boost of activity it needs.
- Start a Workplace Fitness Group
You're likely not alone in your desire to counteract the negative effects of your sedentary workday. Talk to your colleagues to see if there is any interest in starting a workplace fitness group. You could get together to go for a walk at lunchtime, climb more stairs, or set other fun group fitness challenges. This will help keep everyone motivated and establish positive professional relationships as well.
- Investigate the Possibility of a Standing Desk
Standing desks are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, often as part of the health and wellness programs that are gaining more popularity with employers. Healthier workers are more productive and less likely to cost the company money due to absenteeism or health care costs. Consider your workplace culture and think about if there may be a possibility of them investing (or allowing employees to invest in) standing desks. Some places it would be a complete no go and seem odd for asking, while for others it may at least open up a conversation about long-term employee health and wellness needs.
- Prioritize Exercise Outside of Work
There's no way around it - if you have a desk job, physical activity outside of work hours is crucial for your well-being because you simply don't have the active daily lifestyle of someone with a more strenuous job. Make exercising a priority before or after work by scheduling it like any other appointment. Remember: consistency is key. Don’t opt for nothing at all just because you can't make an hour long gym session – even a 10 minute walk will suffice.
The days of realizing by 5:00 pm that you hadn’t moved in hours can be long gone - your desk job doesn’t have to hold you back from staying physically active. By making it a priority and using your skills at thinking outside the box, you can fit some movement into your day and become more refreshed, happier, and more productive.