All in a day's work: Ways to stay fit at the office

For some people, fitness is all in a day's work. They get exercise because their jobs require physical activity. That's a good thing, given the health and calorie-burning benefits of staying active. But, if you have a desk job or other sedentary job, you may need to be creative to find ways to keep your body moving at work.

How much?

Most generally healthy adults need at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise a week along with strength training on at least two days. To get the most health benefits, the exercise should be done at a moderately intense level or higher, such as brisk lunchtime walks.

But, any movement will help burn extra calories. So, look for more ways to keep moving. For example, get up from your desk and stretch now and then. As a bonus, you'll help ease the aches and stiffness that can result from sitting for long periods. A little here, a little there – it all adds up, and it may help motivate you to be more physically active overall. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your physical activity.

Here are a few techniques that might work for you:

Take active breaks and lunches, if possible. If your break allows, consider taking a brisk, 10-minute walk around the building instead. Even small chunks of activity, done throughout the week, can help improve your health. You may return to your work area feeling energized and upbeat, too. Here are some more simple ideas:

  • Take a quick walk outside over the lunch hour
  • Use the stairway instead of the elevator
  • Use a restroom on another floor
  • Sit at your desk on an exercise ball, which works core and back muscles, for short periods of time, if appropriate for your work environment
  • Park as far as you can in the parking lot from the front door so you have to walk more

Be an active commuter. Do you live close enough to ride a bike or walk to work? Both provide aerobic exercise, which:

  • Increases heart rate and breathing, a benefit to your health
  • Burns calories, helping control your weight
  • May help reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions

You'll save cash and help the environment, too. If you bike, just be sure to wear a helmet.

Is the commute too far to walk or bike? Try parking your car farther from the office or getting off the bus a stop early. Then walk the rest of the distance to work. Or, maybe you could ride your bike to the bus stop so at least part of your commute involves exercise.

Invite the office team. Start a walking group that meets for lunch breaks. You'll inspire each other to keep moving while also getting to know your colleagues better.

Open a desktop gym. If it's OK with your supervisor, keep some hand weights, resistance bands or other small exercise equipment at your work area. Do a few reps when you can – such as during breaks.

By taking steps to add more movement into your workday, you can help ensure a more physically active lifestyle – one that benefits your health and well-being.