It’s January. Everyone is downloading fitness apps and vowing to take the stairs more often. Staying in shape while hitting professional goals is hard, from the donuts that appear in the office kitchen each morning to the afternoons spent trying to avoid the vending machines. Meanwhile, treadmill desks can be costly and no one wants to be the guy working up a sweat doing wind sprints in the parking lot.
Working hard is often at odds with working out, but staying in shape doesn’t have to mean busting out the spandex during your lunch break. Recent studies show inactivity is bad for you even if you exercise vigorously, so just finding ways to move more throughout the office can help you feel good and even live longer.
1. Make your workouts short
Whether you’re getting your heart rate up with a brisk 7-minute workout, walking while talking with a colleague, or just doing the dishes, giving yourself frequent breaks will moderate spikes in blood sugar and help focus your mind on the day’s work.
Quick bursts of exercise are proven to help curb appetites and improve your heart health. It’s also a great way to structure your workout routine since it fits around everything else that’s going on in your day.
2. Motivate yourself with some easy habits
Use a free app or give yourself a healthy reason to get up frequently, like drinking from a water glass that needs to be refilled often. Make it a point to stretch while waiting for a file to download or for colleagues to join a video conference. Stand up during meetings, or find a buddy to join you for a 5-minute workout.
If you tend to fidget (it’s actually good for you), channel your extra energy. A lot of the equipment you use at the gym can also work at your desk, like resistance bands, dumbbells and balance discs. If that doesn’t work for you, just keep a gym bag nearby. Sometimes knowing that running shoes and a fresh change of clothes are ready to go is all you need to squeeze in some exercise.
3. Give your workspace an ergonomic makeover
If you’re willing to invest a little money into making your sitting routine healthier, there are endless options for fitness-inspired office furniture. Desk bikes, adjustable desks, ball chairs, kneeling chairs, leaning/standing stools, and the quirky-looking GymGym chair can liven up even the most sedentary office. If budgets are limited, get creative and DIY a walkstation or standing desk.
If you travel often or use multiple desks, there are also plenty of small, portable options. Under-desk mini stair steppers, ergonomic footstools, arm exercisers, and hand exercisers (which help combat carpal tunnel), can help you keep moving throughout the day.
4. Stretch, stand and stroll
Everyone at Highfive HQ has access to standing desks, which have enormous health benefits including a reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But they’re not the only way to put a little energy into your work week. If your day is packed with calls, try a wireless headset or video conference so you can move and talk. More and more people are taking up desk yoga because it’s inconspicuous and as simple as memorizing some stretches that target your back and shoulders to keep sore muscles at bay.
5. Work face-to-face
If all else fails, go with the exercise habit that is a win-win for both your health and career. Skip the momentary temptation to send a quick question by chat or email. Walking around the office to talk to your colleagues can get you over a mid-afternoon slump and, most likely, you’ll have a more meaningful conversation.
Photo courtesy of Benny Wong.