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5 Easy Ways to Sneak Exercise into Your Workday

February 24, 2014

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If you’ve ever experienced back pain, leg numbness, or general fatigue from sitting in your office chair for hours on end, then you’ve witnessed firsthand how your body physically protests against inactivity. Movement is just as nourishing and vital to our total wellness as food is, but for many people in today’s workplace, frequent physical activity is not a part of the workday. Fortunately, it actually doesn’t take much movement to make a big difference. Researchers at Cornell University have found that taking a one to two minute “micro-break” every 20 to 30 minutes may improve your work performance, increase your body comfort level while sitting, and reduce joint and muscle injury. Whether you just have 60 seconds to spare or can take a solid ten minute break, here are some tips on how to sprinkle physical activity throughout your workday:

Wake up your upper body. Start with stretching the sides of your neck. Slowly tilting your head to the right side of your body and then to left. Hold for 5 seconds on each side. Repeat 3 times. Repeat the same sequence, but this time, tilt your head forward and back. For your chest and back, stand up, with your back facing the wall. Extend your arms directly in back of your body until your fingertips touch the wall. Keep your arms parallel with the floor. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 deep breaths. 

Start a movement to get moving. I used to take part in a mindful walking meditation group that met once a week in the conference room at my former job. We would walk slowly in a circuit around the room for 5 to 10 minutes, focusing on our breath and body awareness. Even if your colleagues aren’t open to starting your own group, try suggesting smaller changes, such as stand-up or walking meetings to get your blood and creative juices flowing.

Get on your feet. Prop your laptop up on a filing cabinet or on top of a mid-level bookshelf and try your hand at working at a standing desk. Research shows that standing for just 15 minutes stimulates your metabolism and burns more calories than sitting, while lowering your heart disease and obesity risk. 

Flex it in your office chair. I’ve tried to sit on a stability ball, but I find it pretty distracting to be typing, thinking, and engaging my core muscles simultanesously. Plus, it turns out that it’s often not an effective way to tone your core or improve your posture. Instead, consider engaging your abs and glutes right in your office chair by actively tightening and squeezing these muscles for counts of 10 (try for 5 sets).

Cram in some quick cardio. Not shy about needing an adrenaline rush? Jog in place in your cubical for 5 to 10 minutes or do some jumping jacks in the stairwell. To really rev up your heart rate, climb the stairs of your building (take long strides of two or three steps at a time for a real challenge!).When weather permits, take a walk around the block or even run a quick lap or two around the parking lot or a nearby park. 

How do you stay active during your work day?