Unless your job requires you to be active all day, you probably end up spending most of your waking hours sitting. Even if you get yourself to the gym, hit the pavement or pool or attend fitness classes regularly, research has proven that sitting for prolonged periods has negative impacts on our health — from back pain to muscle degeneration to organ damage to poor circulation — and even diabetes and colon cancer. Quitting your job to become a personal trainer, professional athlete or a yoga instructor isn’t feasible for most of us — but the good news is you can find easy ways to increase your activity level every day. You’ve surely heard, “Take the stairs, not the elevator,” but we’ve got 16 tips beyond that to help prevent your sedentary job from interfering with your health and wellness!
If you don’t already, use a fitness tracker to count your steps. You might be amazed to see how many more steps you can take in a day without breaking a sweat. Check out these ideas for adding more activity getting to work and while you’re there:
If you drive to work and park in a lot or garage, try to park in one a block or two away. Even if it’s in a shopping center or another office lot — just be sure you won’t get towed and it’s safe!
If you ride a train or bus to work, get off at a stop or two before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way. On the way home, walk to a farther stop before getting on. Give up your seat and stand.
If you spend a lot of time on the phone at work, get up and walk around while you talk. Put your desk phone on speaker if you can or get a wireless headset.
Instead of running downstairs to the coffee bar or lunch counter in your building, walk to one a few blocks away instead. Invite a colleague if you need to have a work-related chat and now you’re multitasking!
Unless you need to view spreadsheets and slide shows, try to schedule walking meetings. Or walk to somewhere else such as a coffee shop or hotel lobby to hold your meeting. If the weather is bad, try to find somewhere you can walk indoors. If you need to take a quick look at notes or visuals during your meeting, bring your phone or an iPad on your walk instead. If you need to take notes, use the voice memo app on your phone.
More and more employers are beginning to realize that standup desks are better for their employees! If a standup desk isn’t in your employer’s budget, or your own if you work from home, you can create one with a few inexpensive accessories such as boxes. Just be sure your workspace is still ergonomic — your elbows should be at right angles and you shouldn’t be looking up or down at your monitor. And you don’t have to stand all day — you can alternate between standing and sitting. If a standup desk isn’t feasible, you can swap your desk chair for a fitness ball. Balancing on a fitness ball helps strengthen your core muscles.
Instead of using the nearest restroom or water cooler, walk to one farther away, especially if it’s on a different floor. If anyone looks at you oddly, don’t hesitate to tell them what you’re up to — you might even motivate them to do the same!
If you eat at your desk, try to take your lunch outside or walk to a breakroom farther away. Or eat and then go for a walk. If you find yourself reaching for a midafternoon snack or another cup of coffee to get you through that midafternoon slump, take a 15-minute walk instead.
You can fit more activity into your days outside of work too — and get your kids involved if you have kids!
Stand up and walk around during commercials. Get a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical trainer and use it while you’re binging on your favorite Netflix shows. Do some floor exercises such as squats, planks, pushups, light weightlifting, etc. in front of the TV.
Instead of sitting on the bleachers or in the waiting areas during your kids’ afterschool sports, dance classes, piano lessons, tutoring, etc. — stand up or walk around. If you take your kids to playgrounds, instead of sitting on the bench glued to your mobile phone, walk around or even play with them — they will love you for it!
Instead of meeting friends or colleagues after work at a bar, do something active together instead. You still get to socialize — but now you’re combining it with exercise. Take a Zumba class, go for a bike ride or a jog — even taking a vigorous walk is better than sitting on a bar stool. If you must hit the bar, go for drinks and stand up instead of sitting!
Dancing is not only a lot of fun — it burns a lot of calories! Get earbuds if your family doesn’t like your music and dance around while you cook dinner, fold laundry or clean your house.
Getting a dog is not for everyone and requires a significant time commitment. However, dog owners naturally get more exercise because their dogs need daily walks. If getting a dog isn’t feasible, many animal shelters welcome volunteers to help walk and socialize their dogs.
While trying to get a large load of groceries home without a car isn’t possible, try to walk or bike if you have errands near your home that don’t require a car. Can you walk to the dry cleaners or to a store to return something?
If your kids are very young and still fit into strollers, strap them in and hit the sidewalk — the fresh air will be good for both of you! If the weather is bad, walk around a mall or a museum. If they are on trikes or scooters, walk along with them instead of sitting nearby watching. If they’re older, get them to walk or go on a bike ride with you. Whatever you do, don’t turn it into an interrogation about their life or a lecture! Let them zone out and listen to music if that’s the only way they’ll willingly go — you’re still spending time with them and you’re both getting exercise.
If you’re new to an area or your current social circle doesn’t share your fitness interests, use social media and sites such as Meetup.com to find people who share your interests. You can find all sorts of groups who meet regularly for countless activities – hiking, yoga, biking, paddle boarding, rock climbing, kayaking — you name it, you’ll find it! Many of the groups are subdivided by age, profession, gender, etc., so you’re sure to find one or two that are a fit. You might even meet your new best friend or significant other!
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