One thing that almost every desk job has in common, is the lack of motion: you show up to your desk in the morning, you plug in your six to ten hours of work, and eventually you leave. If you’re lucky, you might have a standing desk. Day in and day out, you’re sitting there, tapping your toes, and potentially wasting hours of pent-up energy. Desk jobs can certainly wear you out, but your brain is the only muscle doing any work. Your brain gets exhausted, but you might not be the most productive worker if you don’t use up some of your overall energy. Plus, not being active for such a long period of time can be detrimental to your body, leading to high blood pressure, poor circulation to your legs and feet, and digestive issues like heartburn or GERD.
But when you have a packed and busy day of work, how can you fit in some healthy exercise?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to incorporate physical workouts into your work day — without having to leave the office. Here are some easy ways to be more active in your daily work routine…
Walk or Jog
One of the easiest ways to get in some extra exercise is to simply leave your desk and go for a walk. If your office is situated on a large campus, or close to a park, you can take a quick walk or a jog around the perimeter to expel some energy.
Additionally, you can use that opportunity away from your desk to clear your mind and re-center yourself. If you’re stuck on a work task, stepping away and walking can help you come up with a solution that would have otherwise alluded you if you had continued to stare at your computer screen. If you don’t fancy doing so by yourself, you could also introduce walking meetings with your team, in which you can update each other on projects while also getting some fresh air.
Become the Stair Master
Similarly to taking a walking break, if you work in a multi-level building with stairs, you can take a brisk climb to burn off your energy. There’s a few exercises you could do on the stairs:
1) Carefully climb multiple stairs (two to three) at a time, so you’re lunging and engaging your quads. Be sure to use the handrail for balance and stability.
2) Carefully step up one stair one foot at a time and then back down (like you would in an aerobics class). Do this up to 20 or 30 times, using the handrail for balance.
3) If you have the ability to use the stairs to get to and from your office, then opt for the stairs instead of the elevator.
4) Set a timer and (if you’re willing to work up a sweat) try to run up and down the stairs as many times as you can before the timer runs out.
Exercises For Your Desk
There are plenty of exercises you can do at your desk, as well. Next time you catch yourself fidgeting or tapping your toes, try to expel some energy with these desk exercises:
1) Desk Squat: While standing at your desk with your chair pushed away, slowly squat until your legs are parallel to the floor (or you’re at chair height). Hold it for a small count of five and stand back up slowly; make sure you don’t get dizzy by standing up too fast. Repeat for 4 to 8 reps, or as you see fit.
2) Leg Raises: While sitting at your desk, straighten your back and slowly raise your legs until they are straight and parallel to the floor. Hold for five seconds. Slowly lower your legs back down to the floor, but don’t touch the floor. Repeat for 10 or 15 reps, and if you want to add on an extra challenge, loop a briefcase or purse around your ankles to add on some extra weight to your lift.
3) Wall Pushups: While standing near a solid wall (make sure it’s a sturdy wall and not a cubicle divider), lean into the wall and let your body be supported by your forearm only. You can either do this with a single hand if you’re leaning sideways or both hands if you’re facing the wall. Lean in closer to the wall so your upper arm almost touches your forearm or hand, and then push away. Repeat this about 20 times (or 10 times for each hand if you’re doing it one hand at a time).
4) Ab Twists: If you are lucky enough to have a swivel chair, use it to help you achieve some core work. With your feet hovering off the ground, grasp the desk in front of you at about arms length, and use only your core muscles to swivel the chair to the left and right. Do this about 20 times.
There’s about a hundred and one other ways to exercise at your desk, but this small list can help you get started. If you’re having trouble keeping up a routine, schedule a calendar reminder or post sticky notes around your desk to help you remember. Once you can make your exercise into a routine, you’ll be less likely to fidget and waste away all your physical energy.
Yoga is always a great way to exercise and calm the mind. There’s a few ways to incorporate yoga stretches into your daily work routine while at your desk; Think Productive North America has covered some of the best moves before.
If you enjoy the health benefits of yoga and want to do some of it at work without getting questioning stares from your coworkers, try some of these stretches:
1) Neck Rolls: Sit up straight in your chair and close your eyes. Slowly lower your chin to your chest, then move to the right put your right ear near your right shoulder. Lean your head back, next, followed by lowering your left ear to your left shoulder. Do this slowly 3 to 5 times, and then switch directions and do it the other way.
2) Seated Sun Salutations: With your back perfectly straight, reach your hands directly above your head as straight as you can. Clasp your hands and stretch them upwards. On an exhale, let your hands down and to your side. If you feel comfortable doing it in the office, you can also do a traditional sun salutation and reach your hands to your feet after your exhale.
3) Side Stretch: Start with a sun salutation, but on the exhale instead of putting both arms down, only put your right arm down and lean slightly to the right. Reach your left hand over to the right a bit and feel a stretch in your left side. Hold it for 30 seconds. Inhale, and extend both your arms up again. On an exhale, drop the left hand this time and do the same stretch on this side.
4) Cactus Arms to Eagle Arms (AKA Sitting Cat and Cow): While sitting with your back perfectly straight, inhale and extend your arms to the side and keep them at a 90 degree angle (so you look like a cactus). Squeeze your shoulders back so you can feel the muscles of your back pulling down and inward. On an exhale, bring your arms inwards and cross them one over the other, folding inwards (you can switch which arm is on top with every exhale). Feel yourself pull your core inwards towards your spine. As you inhale, go back to cactus arms and repeat the process. Do this five times, or as feels good for you.
Keep the Healthy Habits Going At Home
It can be tough to fit in exercise during your busy working schedule, but exercise is not just important for our bodies, it’s vital for our mind to properly function as well. If you really want to be the best Productivity Ninja on your team, you have to nourish every part of your body to keep the blood flowing and the creative juices rolling.
If you want to keep up these habits at home, you can emulate the training habits of elite athletes, which might be easier than you expect: sleep well every night, eat a balanced meal, and envision achievable goals. Remind yourself to exercise at least once a day. Pack a healthy lunch, and drink lots of water.
Over time, your workouts will help you feel fitter, healthier and more energetic, which might even inspire others to give it a try, too.
By Katie McBeth
Katie is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID. She enjoys reading teen novels, eating mac ‘n cheese, and attending indie concerts in small bars. Her love for reading is only trumped by her love for cats, of which she has three. She also has a dog, and he helps keep her grounded. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth