Sitting all day can take years off our lives. Despite this fact, most Americans work at desk jobs and then relax after work.
Sitting increases our chances of back problems, obesity-related illnesses and shortens our lifespan. Many of us have such busy schedules that we can find it difficult to squeeze in a workout.
Remaining physically active throughout the day might be easier than you think, and it can actually help you be more mentally active, and therefore more productive at work. Here are 48 ways you can remain active at work without trying.
Stand up at work
Sitting for extended periods of time can increase your odds of diabetes, obesity and heart problems. Set an alarm and stand every 30 minutes or every hour to reduce your risk, burn calories and prevent lower back pain.
An easy way to move more at work is to just fidget. If you are feeling stressed, play with a stress ball, poke around your desk area to take a mental break or just shake it out.
Tap your leg
Tapping your leg actually keeps your mind active, prevents boredom, burns calories and reduces stress. Who knew such a simple motion came with all those benefits!
Take squat breaks
By working on your legs and core muscles, you actually burn more calories throughout the day, even when your body is at rest. So take squat breaks and tone your tush.
Take a walking break
It might not seem like much, but buying a pedometer can show you just how much you walk each day. Sometimes walking around your office or the break room can provide a new perspective and allow your mind to clear. Set goals for yourself so you can find new ways to walk around and stay on track.
Stretching is one of the simplest and most beneficial exercises to incorporate into your daily work and life schedule. It doesn’t even require getting up out of your seat. There are stretches you can do regardless of where you are. As an added bonus, stretching isn’t just good for your body but can also help relieve stress.
Straighten your back
A quick motion that can make all the difference at work is to correct your posture. Un-hunch your back, straighten and lower your shoulders, and sit with your feet flat on the floor. This simple alteration can help prevent back problems and prevent bodily fatigue when working long hours. It also keeps your back flexible and able to withstand exercises you do throughout the day.
Take the stairs
If you have meetings on another floor, or have to take the elevator to get to your office, take the stairs instead. It might seem tedious, and maybe even painful at first, but eventually it’ll get easier and easier to do. Soon you might even sprint up the steps and beat the elevator to your floor. Even if you don’t have to use the elevator and your desk is on the first floor, climb the stairs anyway, either before work or during breaks.
Sit on a balance ball
Switch your office chair for a fitness ball. Just make sure it is tall enough to allow for good posture. Sitting on uneven surfaces can engage your core muscles and keep them working throughout the workday.
Take your news directly to the source
Pass on the emails and take news directly to your coworkers. This will help you practice your interpersonal skills, allow you to walk around a bit, and it adds a personal and professional touch that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Meetings on the go
Instead of sitting in a room full of expensive executive-style chairs and an elongated table, take a stroll with your workers. It’ll seem more personal, give you all some fresh air, and relieve tension that is common in meetings.
Straighten your legs
An exercise you can perform while sitting is a simple leg raise. Lean forward slightly away from your backrest and raise each leg three inches off the ground. Tighten your leg muscles and alternate your legs. Do this twice daily to work your quadriceps, which can help boost circulation.
Exercise your cheeks
Another way you can work out and stay sitting is to tighten your butt cheeks. This may sound funny, but it’s a glute exercise that you can sneak in just about anywhere. Just sit with your back straight and tighten your glutes. Hold for five to ten seconds and release. Repeat five to ten times daily to sit and be fit.
Play foot alphabet
A fun and mentally engaging exercise to do when you’re bored at your desk is the foot alphabet. Slip off your shoes from under your desk. Then with your leg straightened, draw the alphabet with your big toe. Spread your toes as you draw out each letter. Repeat on the other side. This exercise helps improve ankle strength, toe and foot flexibility, and stretches your Achilles tendon.
Extend your arms
If your office chair has wheels, sit in the middle of your chair. Lean forward about two inches away from your desk. Grabbing the sides of the desktop with your arms bent, push yourself away until your arms are extended and pull yourself back in. Repeat 10 to 15 times each day for a good upper-body workout that targets your biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders and core.
Tilt your pelvic bone
With your feet flat on the floor, scoot to the middle of your chair. With your hands flat on your desk, arch your lower back, engage your core and pull your hips in toward your stomach as if you were doing a crunch. Let your stomach do all of the work. Do 10 to 20 repetitions, 3 or 4 times each day. This not only tones your stomach, but also increases flexibility and makes sitting less tiring.
Do arm circles
Sit up straight, raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor. Extend your fingers and rotate your arms slowly in tight, small circles twenty times in each direction. This exercise is great for tightening muscles in your upper back and strengthening your neck.
Like squats, lunges are easy leg exercises to do during quick breaks between work activities. You can do back lunges, where you step one leg backward and pulse toward the ground, or front lunges, where you take a deep step forward and pulse. If you want to take it up a notch, take jumping lunges — jump into a lunge position and jump again to switch legs. This works out the back of your legs and doubles as a cardio workout if you decide to do jumping lunges.
Park far away
Most people like to park near their office so they can get into work quickly. Try waking up earlier and parking away from the building so you force yourself to be more active before you even get to the office. Walking is stimulating and can help you be more alert as you start your workday.
Bike to work
Another great way to get to work is by bike. If you wake up early, and you live not too far from work, biking is a great way to sneak in some cardio and workout your legs so that you can burn more calories throughout your day — and be more alert when you get there.
Practice calf raises
Stand with your feet flat on the ground and then lift your heels. This helps stretch your toes and ankles while toning your calves. You can do this just about anywhere.
Work out during lunch breaks
A great way to remain active is to use lunch breaks to your advantage. Exercising before you eat can help you recharge. If you have a thirty minute lunch break, don’t fret. You can squeeze in a 10 or 15 minute workout and use the rest of the time to eat your pre-made lunch. If you have a full hour off, that’s even better as it opens you up to more options. There are plenty of short workouts on Youtube that require no equipment, or you can just jog or walk. If you jog at 6 mph, you can complete a mile in only 10 minutes!
Do butt kickers
A quick cardio workout you can do in or out of the office is a butt kicker. Jog in place but try to lift your feet toward your butt as you kick them up. This will tire you more quickly and burn more calories than just jogging in place.
Take jumping-jack breaks
Another easy way to sneak in some cardio is to do jumping jacks during breaks. This is especially ideal if you take five-minute breaks throughout the day. You can alternate between front jacks, squat jacks, pulsing jacks or whatever combination you choose to work out various parts of your body.
Do some high knees
A great way to raise your heart rate in a short amount of time is to practice high knees. Act as if you are running in place but kick your knees up toward your chest with every step. The faster you go, the more calories you’ll burn in a shorter amount of time.
Make toilet breaks more active
If you feel silly doing some of these exercises at the office, do them during bathroom breaks. You can do more vigorous cardio like butt kickers, jumping jacks or high knees, or easier exercises like squats, lunges, arm circles, calf raises or just stretches.
Take standing calls
Taking calls all day can be boring and repetitive. Break the cycle by getting up and walking in circles. This is especially helpful if you are on hold. By using phone calls as a reminder to stand, you can more easily make standing or walking around a regular part of your workday without much effort.
Get to work early
As mentioned before, you can wake up earlier to get to work via bicycle or take a longer walk to work, but you can also get to work early to exercise at work before anyone shows up. You can use the parking area or the front lawn to do cardio, standing toning exercises or a simple morning jog.
Take the longer route
If there are multiple ways to get to your desk or the meeting room, take the longer route so you can get more steps in a little at a time throughout your day. Every step counts!
Clean your desk area
The act of cleaning, even if you are sitting, can help you burn calories, stretch your body, and get you moving. Cleaning is almost a zen-like activity as it is a relaxing way to work out various muscles.
Move things just out of reach
When you clean your desk area, move things just slightly out of your reach. This way, you can stretch throughout the day, get up and walk, or reach upward to work your calf muscles.
Twist and pop your back
If you’ve been sitting for a long period of time, it will put a strain on your back even if you are sitting properly. To readjust, grab the back of your chair on your left side with both hands and pull your body toward it, then repeat on the other side. This is a good stretch that can also pop your back. Next, arch your back outward and then inward to stretch or pop any remaining tension in the spine.
Lift and lower boxes
If you do paperwork, find excuses to lift and lower boxes. Do so slowly, with your back straight. If the boxes are closed, lift them above your head and slowly bring them down. Weight lifting in the office might seem impossible, but paperwork can definitely help you compensate if you don’t have weights on hand.
Use a resistance band
A resistance band is a good alternative if you find that boxes of paperwork are too heavy. Plus, with resistance bands you can work a variety of upper body muscles including your shoulders, chest, biceps and triceps.
Do standing push-ups
If you don’t want to do floor exercises, you can use the wall to your advantage. With your arms parallel to the floor in front of you, press the palm of your hands against the wall. Lean toward the wall and pull away with your hands as if you were doing a push-up.
Do standing sit-ups
Like with standing push-ups, you can also use the wall to do sit-ups. With your back against the wall, arch your back, engage your core muscles, slowly lean your upper body forward off of the wall and with your core still contracted lean back again against the wall and repeat.
Water bottle exercises and stretches
You can use a water bottle for a variety of exercises at your desk. Do bicep curls or tricep extensions with the water bottle as a weight. To increase the weight, use a larger 2 or 3 liter bottle if you can. You can also use water bottles to roll out your back. Place your hands on the bottles and pull away so your arms are extended and your back is arched forward. You can also use water bottles to roll your feet away from the desk and back toward you for a good leg stretch.
Take dance breaks
A good way to stay active, relieve stress, and have fun is to take dance breaks. Play an upbeat track that you love on your headset and dance. If you are embarrassed, or feel like it is too unprofessional to dance at work, do this in the bathroom, dance when taking the stairs or just wiggle around in your chair and bob your head.
An effective way to stay active in the workplace is to set goals, gather your work mates and start a competition. Using a pedometer makes this task easier as it automatically records your movements throughout the day. Working out with others can help motivate you, but if you make it a competition, there is added incentive to stay on track and reach your personal goals.
Balance on one leg
Whether you are waiting to talk to your boss, waiting outside the bathroom or on hold on the phone, you can use that time to practice your balance and improve your concentration. Focus on a spot on the ground or in front of you, slowly shift your weight to one leg, and lift the other leg a little off the ground. Hold this for as long as you can, then switch legs. The more you focus, the better your balance will be.
Eat lunch while standing
Most people sit when eating lunch, but you can mix it up by choosing to stand. Especially if you have been sitting all day, this is a nice change. You’ll also motivate others because in order to talk to you, they might stand as well.
Walk to get water
Instead of always having a disposable water bottle on hand, get up and fill up your reusable canister. If you are feeling sluggish, getting up will help boost circulation and get more oxygen to the brain.
Go to a more distant bathroom
Most offices have more than one bathroom. If you have one that is farther away, go to that one. This will give your mind more time to recharge and get you moving. If there are bathrooms on different floors, choose one on a different floor and take the stairs.
Jump or skip back to your car
Especially after a long, hard day at work, it feels good to celebrate your return home. Jumping or skipping back to your car, especially if you parked far away, can be an excellent workout that’ll leave you feeling like a kid again.
During breaks, step out for some fresh air and break out your jump rope. You’ll get your heart pumping and you’ll work out your legs and wrists.
Shrug your shoulders
A good exercise to do at your desk from time to time is a shoulder shrug. It helps relieve tension in your shoulders. Roll your shoulders up toward your ears, hold, and roll them forward. Then roll your shoulders back, holding at the top. Do this to loosen up your shoulders and neck.
Circle your ankles and wrists
Especially if you are typing all day, stretching your wrists and ankles can feel really good. If you’d like, you can use a water bottle as a weight. Move your hands in a circle slowly in both directions. Do the same with your feet. Sometimes you might feel a pop if they are tense. If you are still experiencing some pain or discomfort, shake them out.
Tap your fingers
A good way to stimulate your hands and your mind during a break is to tap your fingers. This challenges your brain by testing both your ability to concentrate and your hand-eye coordination. For an additional challenge, try not to look at your fingers while you are doing this. Just use your thumb to tap each finger in order and repeat. The more you do it, the more challenging it becomes.
A body in motion stays in motion. The more you move around, the less stiff your body will become later in life.