by Greta Lieske
After spending more than eight hours a day in a stuffy office, the last thing most people want to do is hit the gym. Combine that with the cooler temperatures, and it’s even harder to keep up an exercise routine.
But what if you could find easy ways to take care of your body throughout the day? Ways that don’t involve a gym membership or feel like you’re losing a huge chunk of the day to working out?
We asked fitness experts from across the U.S. how you can escape your desk prison and make sure your body is getting the daily movement it needs.
Jeff Rogers, founder of Rogcity Fitness of Wisconsin and certified member of the National Exercise Trainers Association, says most Americans aren’t getting nearly the amount of exercise they need throughout the day. He knows that long hours spent in an office are one of the contributing factors. To combat this issue, he says one of the most beneficial things you can do during the workday is being conscious of how long you are sitting and simply get up and move every once in awhile.
“Prolonged sitting is unnatural and hard on the body and brain,” Rogers says. “It’s appropriate to get up and move every two hours for 10 to 15 minutes. These ‘little breaks’ can also be good for mood and thought, likely helping work production.”
It also helps when your office promotes a culture of fitness support rather than ridicule. Rogers explains that Google and Microsoft incorporate exercise recreation in their employees’ day. When the culture exists, no one has to feel silly when they do easy desk-side moves, such as toe touches, wall sits or desk push-ups. But if you’re still self-conscious of doing these small moves throughout the day, stairs in any office offer a great aerobic work-out, even for a few minutes.
John Salat, L.A.-based chi instructor who works with professional athletes and clinics, says he understands the struggle. Before entering the fitness and relaxation industry, he spent hours sitting in an office cubicle under flickering, florescent bulbs.
“After a while, I would strangely sneak into the bathroom stall or use the fire escape stairway to do stretch and breathing exercises,” Salat explains. “As odd as this sounds, they were the only two places I could be alone so no one would reprimand me for taking care of my health and well-being on my breaks. It was so awkward that I decided to research and redefine exercise and fitness as a state of mind—relaxing the body for health.”
Salat outlines his redefined relaxation exercise routines for a busy world in his book, Tao, Art of Flow, which includes using movement and breathing to block out the stresses of the day.
“Try standing in a private space and identifying the locked parts of your body that do not want to be fluid,” Salat says. “See if you can add flexible movements in real-time until the whole body moves randomly fluid, similar to vertical swaying seaweed. Energy and body strength awakens the body through circulating movements. This movement awareness fosters the energy flow with intention known as ‘cultivation.’ When we tap and harvest this energy, we can move with body, spirit and soul as a single origin, the whole self.”
If breathing and relaxation exercises aren’t your cup of tea for the office, Personal Trainer Jenn Walters suggests penciling in short bouts of common exercises during the workday. Walters, who is an ACE-certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach, says a 15-minute block before and after lunch is the perfect time.
Before lunch, Walters suggests heading to the stairs and start climbing. Take the first flight up one stair at a time; second flight two at a time and try to repeat this sequence five times. After resting for one minute, do 20 standing push-ups with your hands on the wall.
“After lunch, head back to the stairs. Slowly jog up two flights of stairs or in place for 30 seconds. Once up, lower into a plié squat (toes out) and start twisting your upper body and your upper body only—engage that core! Next, with your feet on the main landing, put your hands on the stairs, about two to three stairs up, depending on how tall you are. From there, perform a side plank. Hold the side plank for about 30 seconds on each side,” Walters advises. “When you’re done, jog back down to where you started and head back to work.”
But what about that winter weather that we know is coming? If you normally like to go for a quick run or jog in the morning, or hit the gym, the cold and darker mornings can easily squash your motivation. Glenn Dickstein of NeighborhoodTrainers in New York says one of the best ways to combat the winter weather fitness blues is to use the buddy system. Find a friend to work out with you.
If a friend commits to a morning walk or jog—even if it’s after work—you’ll be held accountable to keep that exercise date. No one wants to be the person that leaves their friend high and dry—even if it means emerging from the cozy warmth of bed for the crisp morning air.
Staying fit tips for the workday
- Stretch, stretch, stretch! Stretches are easy to do at your desk, in an empty conference room or in the stairwell. Five minutes of stretching relieves stress, increases flexibility and reduces the risk of injury.
- Take a 5 to 10 minute walk. Get up, put your smart-phone down and just take a few minutes to walk around the block, the stairwell or wherever you can go to get away and organize your thoughts.
- Stand up and breathe deep—five or six slow deep breaths during any time through the day.
- Keep water at your desk—several bottles in a desk drawer that are easily accessible. Water is refreshing, invigorating and keeps you hydrated. Being dehydrated leaves you tired, unfocused and reaching for snacks.
- Stock the office refrigerator with healthy foods. You’ll avoid making impulsive stops at fast food
- Use the buddy system! Cold mornings got you down? Schedule to meet a friend or other gym member at a specified time, and then you have a reason to show up.
- Set up a morning call. If your friend calls to wake you up you know you are being held accountable for meeting at the gym.
- Bring your gym clothes with you to work and leave them in your car. It will be a convenient reminder to fit in some fitness after work.