Staying active can be an uphill battle at the best of times, between avoiding the call of the couch at the end of the day or driving the kids to appointments. When you add in a 9am to 5pm office job where you spend most days sitting, and suddenly your spending the majority of your day without moving much at all.
Staying active with an office job isn’t impossible, but it does take a lot more planning and organization. The best strategy is to find ways to sneak in activity throughout the day…
1. Find an Active Commute to Work
It might not be realistic for you to walk or bike to work for a variety of reasons. However, could you split up your commute and bike or walk part of the way? If you can leave 15-minutes earlier in the morning, you can open up time for yourself to park further from your workplace and walk or bike the rest of the way.
Another strategy would simply be to arrive to work earlier, park, and take 15-minutes to walk around the block and clear your mind before you start your workday. If walking or biking doesn’t appeal to you, focus on getting more activity at work, but before you get to your desk. For instance, hike up and down the stairs a few times, or play a game where you perform 5 squats, lunges, jumping jacks, or wall pushups every 5 steps.
2. Go For a Walk on Your Lunch Break
Whether you have 30-minutes or an hour for lunch, carving out at least 15-minutes of that time for exercise can go a long way. By eating your lunch at your desk before or after your actual lunch break, you open up time to stop sitting and start moving. If you generally buy a lunch instead of bring one from home, start planning your restaurant selections around a walking route and call ahead to take your lunch to go.
Don’t take your allotted lunch break time? Reframe your thinking about whether it’s more valuable to work through your lunch or take a break to refresh and squeeze some activity in. By actually taking your lunch break and using it as an opportunity to be active, you can return to your desk feeling energized and better able to apply yourself to the tasks at hand.
3. Set an Alarm
It’s easy to get caught up in a task at work and suddenly look up at the clock to see that an hour has passed. Ideally, you should get yourself in the habit of taking a physical activity break. Try setting an alarm on your phone to hold some yoga poses or a quick walk around the office every 45-minutes. Another strategy is to use nature’s alarm clock to start moving. Sipping water throughout the day not only keeps you hydrated, but will act as a prompt to get up regularly.
If you need extra motivation, employ the help of a co-worker by setting regular morning and afternoon movement breaks. Movement breaks with a co-worker will not only help keep you accountable and less likely to skip them, but can also make the break more enjoyable as you can walk and talk together.
4. Inside of Drinks with Co-Workers, Try an Exercise Class!
Do you like to get together with a few of your co-workers after work for a drink and some appetizers? If you look forward to that time to unwind, decompress, and laugh off the day with friends? Instead of ditching that time with co-workers, try replacing it with group physical activity, like shooting some basketballs, starting a running club, or meeting up at the gym. You still get the benefit of social time as well as the added benefits from regular physical activity.
Can’t imagine yourself giving up cocktails for running shoes? Try making a deal with yourself: before you can join your co-workers, you need to get some type of physical activity in for at least 15-minutes. This way, you can have the best of both worlds—building exercise into your day and still being able to enjoy social time with co-workers.
5. Create a Competitive Culture
Leveraging the competitive nature of your friends, family members, or co-workers can help you stay determined to remain active throughout the day. By finding others that enjoy the challenge of competing, you might find it easier to stay motivated and accountable to your goals. Not only will you have others cheering you on and offering you support, you can be inspired by the results of others and encouraged to push yourself that much further.
To get started, create an account on a fitness tracking website, such at MyFitnessPal.com, and invite your friends to a challenge. Who can log the greatest number of squats, pushups, or lunges during the day? Who can log the most minutes of walking? Choose a challenge that will appeal to your group and build in ways to support each other in reaching everyone’s goals (such as planning group hikes).
6. Bonus: Find Ways to Simply Sit Less
Staying physically active by participating and activities that elevate your heart rate is crucial, but so is simply just sitting less. This is why moving more and sitting less should go hand in hand; if you exercise for 30-minutes each day, but still spend most of your day sitting, you’re still at risk for developing the chronic health conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
In addition to moving more, look at your office space to identify opportunities to sit less often. Can you move your laptop to a shelf so you are standing while typing? What about standing to perform basic stretches every 15-minutes? It’s important to remember that working out once a day can’t undo the damage of being sedentary all day, so looking for ways to fit in short bursts of exercise and break up time spent sitting is key.