According to the CDC, 77% of adults don’t get enough exercise. But is that really a surprise to you? Your hectic schedule makes working out seem downright impossible sometimes.
Maybe you could hit the gym before work? Yeah, as long as your boss won’t mind you catching some z’s during important meetings or conference calls. After work doesn’t really sound too appealing either. Drag yourself to the gym after a long day on the job? That’s a hard pass too.
It sucks because you know exercise is important for your physical and mental health. So here’s an idea: Exercise at work. Not only is it possible to be active on the job, but research shows it can actually boost your productivity too.
Here are 10 ways how to incorporate exercise into your workday:
1. Take the Stairs
They’re convenient, but a ride on the elevator won’t do much for helping you get active or burn any calories. Taking the stairs, on the other hand, is a great exercise at work hack for getting some cardio in and elevating your heart rate (hence the typical out-of-breath feeling when you reach the top).
It’s also a great leg workout and is easy on the joints. One study found that walking up just 200 steps twice a day can increase your aerobic fitness levels by as much as 17%.
2. Use a Stability Ball Instead of a Desk Chair
There’s always at least one person in the workplace who sits on an exercise ball instead of a regular desk chair. Aside from looking cool or comfy, did you know that they’re actually getting a workout in while sitting at their computer?
Balancing yourself on an exercise ball forces you to sit up straight (improving your posture) and can add up to a nice, little ab workout. In one study, sitting on a stability ball was even found to help improve attention span, which is good news for your work productivity and getting things done. Now, the study was done for kids but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for adults too.
3. Get a Treadmill Desk or Mini Exercise Bike
Your inbox is flooded with a bazillion emails, your boss just came to you with an urgent request (“urgent” being up for debate), and on top of all that, you still have your own work to do.
It doesn’t feel like you have enough time. But luckily, another exercise at work cheat code involves getting your steps in while you work, which you can do by investing in a treadmill desk or mini exercise bike.
One study found that employees who had a computer workstation treadmill burned an extra 100 calories per hour more than their co-workers. And with a mini exercise bike, the best part is that no one will even notice you pedaling away under your desk. You’ll just be burning calories and getting work done.
4. Take Walking Meetings
Conference rooms can be a tight squeeze for work meetings. And there just never seems to be enough chairs for everyone. Rather than pack in like sardines, suggest walking meetings with your managers or direct reports to sneak in some more fitness at work.
This doesn’t have to be exclusive to work meetings either. Hop on a call while walking around your workplace or get some more steps in while you catch up with a co-worker. The important thing is that your daily steps will be racking up like a money counter machine.
5. Sneak Workouts in at Your Desk
The last thing you want to do is look or feel silly in front of your coworkers. That’s why you need workouts that won’t draw any attention to yourself. Luckily, that’s where desk workouts come into play. As with any physical activity, the benefits of desk exercises include helping you burn calories, having a positive impact on your mood, and reducing your stress levels.
When it comes to sneaking in exercise at your desk, isometric exercises are your best bet. An isometric exercise is when you hold your body in one position and squeeze your muscles together without moving (think wall sits or flexing your abs).
With that in mind, here are some subtle desk exercises at work you can do:
- Bicep curl squeezes: hold your arms out like you’re going to do a bicep curl (think of making an L-shape with your arms) and squeeze.
- Forearm squeezes using a hand gripper: you don’t want bulging biceps and tiny forearms.
- Work on your glutes by squeezing and releasing
- Have a standing desk? Try some calf raises.
You might be able to get a little more creative with working out while working from home. Give this 10-minute office workout a try (complete each exercise 3 times for between 10-2o reps):
- Desk push-ups
- Chair squats
- Chair dips
- Lunges (each leg)
- Seated bicycle crunches (each leg)
Want to take things up a notch? Fill up two water bottles or gallons of water to make your own homemade desk exercise equipment. You can do all sorts of exercises—from shoulder press and lateral raises to bicep curls and overhead tricep extensions. Or, if you have a pair of dumbbells handy give this home dumbbell workout plan a try.
6. Take Breaks to Stretch Throughout the Day
Exercise at work isn’t just limited to cardio or strength training—flexibility is important too, so it definitely belongs on the list of office exercises. It can reduce your risk of injury, ease muscle soreness, and it’s great for your joints. But don’t worry, you won’t have to whip out a yoga mat in the middle of the office to get a good stretch in. There are a ton of stretches you can do right in your seat or standing close to your desk.
Here are some suggestions from the good people at WebMD:
- Torso twists
- Body hugs
- Arm circles
- Shoulder shrugs
- Standing up and sitting back down
- Leg extensions
7. Workout on Your Lunch Break
Your protein-rich lunch packed full of omega-3 fatty acids might have to wait for a little bit, but consider using your lunch break to get a workout in. Don’t sweat it (no pun intended) if you only have time for a quick 20 or 30-minute workout. That’s more than enough time.
The American College of Sports Medicine was presented a study that found 30-60 minutes of exercise at lunch boosted employee performance by an average of 15%. What’s more—60% of the study’s participants reported that their time management skills, mental performance, and their mood all improved. They were also better at meeting deadlines and dealing with work pressure on the days they exercised.
If you’re worried about getting sweaty or showering afterward isn’t possible, low-impact exercise—like walking or yoga—will get the job done just fine.
8. Make Your Commute a Workout
Your morning commute can be a time for fitness. And that’s no matter how far away you live or what type of commute you have. Live close to your work? You can speed walk, jog, or bike instead of hopping in the car or taking the subway.
Or if you live fairly far away, you can always park somewhere else or hop off public transportation before your usual stop and power walk or jog to work.
9. Take the Long Way
Want a simple way to get in more daily steps? Take the long way instead of your usual shortcuts (which no doubt have come in handy a time or two when you’re running late). Taking the long way could involve parking a little further away instead of circling around like a vulture trying to find the absolute closest spot. Or, it could be using the bathroom on the other side of the office instead of the one right by your desk.
10. Start a Workout Club
Don’t feel like working out alone? Are you a social butterfly? Odds are, you’re not the only one looking for some fitness at the office, so consider starting up a workout club. It could be something simple like a weightlifting group or a running club that gets together.
You can use something like Survey Monkey to gauge your coworker’s interests, ask them for ideas, and get their availability.
At the end of the day, fitness is all about mindset. If you’re struggling to find quality fitness time, then it might be time to bring your workout to the office.
Whether it’s sneaking in a workout at your desk, using a stability ball instead of a desk chair, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting in exercise at work comes down to finding little ways to add some extra movement into your workday. Sometimes, the little things might not seem like much. But they can lead to big changes when you add them up over time.
Have the exercise piece down and now you’re ready to focus on diet? Check out our blog post on functional nutrition.
Author: Chad Richardson
Chad is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s not behind his computer cooking up content, you’ll find Chad at the gym making extremely ugly workout faces or watching sports with friends. He likes to pretend his hometown teams will play better if he yells at the TV.
Learn more about Chad on his business website here.
The information contained in this post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical or professional advice. You should consult your doctor or medical professional before starting this or other fitness or nutrition programs to determine if it is right fo your unique needs.