For many people, finding the time to exercise is a constant struggle. Thankfully, there are many different quick exercises that you can use to get fit while you’re at work!
The sedentary lifestyle of most workplaces is a serious health issue. We spend so much time sitting at our desks that it places us at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, weight gain, muscle loss, and musculoskeletal pain.
Some people can fit in a solid workout before or after their time at the office. Others have physically demanding jobs. However, if your schedule makes regular workouts difficult and you spend most of your time sitting in front of a computer, these quick exercises could make a world of difference to your current and future wellbeing!
Now, it’s important for me to note that I am not a doctor and don’t know anything about your personal health conditions! If you have any questions or concerns about any of the exercises listed below, please speak to a healthcare professional before attempting them.
Take a Break
One of the most difficult parts of exercising during the work day is finding the time to do it.
Thankfully, most of these ideas shouldn’t take much time at all. You can easily fit in half an hour of exercise each day in 1–5 minute blocks. In most workplaces, taking a minute or two to yourself to stretch, get a drink of water, or use the facilities is a non-issue. Try fitting in one or two exercises during each of these breaks.
Remind yourself. Workplace culture, deadlines, and plain forgetfulness can make remembering to take breaks a struggle. Thankfully, there are a ton of reminder apps out there that can serve as an external nudge on busy days.
Mac Users may like the Time Out app, which allows you to use your own schedule of daily breaks. Receive a customizable notification at set intervals reminding you to fit in a little activity.
Another app, StretchClock, costs $3 per month, but goes beyond just sending reminders. This app also links directly to different stretching and exercise videos that you can complete during a break.
Head-to-Toe Fitness at Work
Believe it or not, it’s possible to exercise nearly every part of your body at work. Some suggestions depend on your workplace setup, but it’s surprising what you can do to stay physically active even in a tiny work space!
1. Boost Your Brain
It might seem like you exercise your brain enough at work every day, but training your brain is just as important for your physical health as building muscle. Stress hormones such as cortisol released by the brain can have long-term harmful effects on your body through elevated blood pressure, increased fat storage, headaches, and an increased risk for anxiety and depression.
One of the best ways to combat stress no matter the situation is to practice brief mindfulness meditations. As seen in the video above, these can be as short as one minute. Another option for practicing mindfulness is mindful meditation apps. It’s a good idea to find one that best fits your personality and time limitations!
Over time, practicing mindfulness teaches your brain to maintain a calm and balanced state no matter how crazy work gets. Even taking just ten deep breaths can make a world of difference in your state of mind.
2. Exercise Your Eyes
Your eyes become overworked when you spend all day staring at a computer screen. Over time, this can lead to eye fatigue, eye twitching, red eyes, and blurred vision. Thankfully, with some short eye exercises, you can greatly improve your eye health and prevent headaches.
There are two great tools out there to guide you through some basic eye exercises. Eyeleo is a customizable application for Windows computers that sends “short break” reminders every 10 minutes with quick eye exercises for you to do. Users may also enable “long breaks,” which blocks the computer screen every hour just long enough for your eyes to get a break.
For other operating systems, the web-based Protect Your Vision site is a better choice.
3. Stretch Your Shoulders
Posture has a major influence on pain and headaches. Even for people with chronic bad posture, there are easy posture fixes out there.
Spend a minute or two every hour relaxing your shoulders by rolling them forward and backward, slowly turning your neck to look over each shoulder, and pulling your shoulder blades together (holding for about 15 seconds). Other great shoulder stretches for the office are available on YouTube. Check out one example below.
You may also consider downloading the Neck and Shoulders Stretching app (iOS) or the Upper Back Pain app [No Longer Available] for stretching guides and prompts.
As a preventative measure, you might want to consider the setup of your desk. Ideally, your monitor should be at eye level, your feet should rest firmly on the ground (or on a step/ledge), and your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows at a 90-degree angle to easily reach your keyboard.
4. Get Creative With Cardio
There’s no denying it: cardio is one of the hardest kinds of exercise to get during the workday. Take some time off in your workday and sneak a few extra steps in.
Maybe you could go to the printer more often. Or perhaps you could use a washroom further away from your desk. Classic suggestions include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, moving to a coworker’s office instead of sending an e-mail, or going on a quick walk at lunch.
A wearable fitness tracker is also a fantastic way to motivate you to move more throughout your day. Many models even vibrate to let you know when you’ve been sedentary for too long!
5. Amplify Your Arms
Your arms are likely the easiest muscles to exercise over the course of the day. Many strategies you use to exercise your arms in other contexts can easily be completed in an office environment.
Consider doing triceps dips every time you sit down or stand up, use handheld weights during a phone meeting, or using a resistance band to relieve stress in the middle of the afternoon. Wall push-ups may also work well for you depending on your office layout.
For proper form in dumbbell exercises, or to learn how to target specific muscles consider using an app like Dumbbell Workouts [No Longer Available] or Fitness Buddy (iOS). These apps aren’t office-specific, but with some trial and error you will identify the exercises that will work best for you.
6. Wiggle Your Wrists
While much of your body may be sedentary during the workday, your wrists and hands are under a lot of pressure. Taking some time each day to stretch and restore these key muscles and joints can save you from more serious pain and joint problems further down the road.
The regular breaks you take to exercise will significantly decrease your risk of repetitive strain injuries. However, you may also want to do specific stretches for the wrist and hands. Wellnomics Stretches is an app for Android developed by an ergonomic software provider that includes several easy stretches. The video below also has some good suggestions.
This might also be a good time to consider the use of alternate text input software such as voice typing (available for free on Google Docs) or Dragon NaturallySpeaking. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse can also make a significant difference.
7. Crunch-Free Core
Abs are one of the areas almost everyone wants to tone, and thankfully that’s pretty easy to do while you’re at work if you can find a chair. The video below shows two potential options for working your core while seated.
However, there are many great chair-based workout videos online. As well, even just sitting up straight over the course of the day will have a significant impact on your core strength. Equipment that challenges your balance, such as sitting on a stability ball can also have long-term positive effects.
If a stability ball won’t work in your workplace, consider purchasing a balance disk instead. These tools can be found at many locations online (this model is for sale on Gaiam for just over $20). They fit almost any chair and add an instant balance challenge to your workday.
8. Loosen Your Legs
Legs are probably the least subtle body part to work out at the office. But that’s not to say it’s impossible! For some exercises, however, you may want to find a quiet corner of the office or close your office door before attempting them.
Both NanoWorkout and Fitbolt.com have tons of different office-specific workout recommendations. Activities like wall sits, squats, and leg extensions are easy ways to tone your legs without attracting unwanted attention.
You may also want to work in a few hamstrings stretches over the course of the day. Your hamstrings often tighten up while sitting that, if left untreated, can lead to significant lower back pain over time.
What Do You Have to Lose?
It might seem counterintuitive to take time out of your work day to participate in short bursts of activity. However, the benefits you’ll see from working out aren’t just physical in nature. Take a few minutes each hour to step away from your computer. Breathe some deep breaths, and get the blood moving through your body to feel the impact on your overall happiness.
When you exercise regularly, you are more likely to be alert, to be thinking clearly, and have a better overall mood. These factors relate directly back to your productivity in your job.
How do you fit exercise into your daily life? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments!
Image Credits: Marcin Balcerzak/Shutterstock