Food for Thought: Exercise at Work

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How to Incorporate Exercise into Your Day

Push Ups
Push Ups

Ok, it is Monday after a weekend.  I hit the snooze button too much and now I have to play catch up on my steps.  Don’t let your work schedule get in the way of 10,000 steps.  In an ideal situation, I would have gotten up at 5 AM and gone to the gym, and walked this morning.  Work never gets in the way of healthy eating habits or exercise, does it?   

Now that reality has set in, you did not feel like exercising before work and now you need to make up for your snooze button time.  You do not need to exercise an hour before work starts to get in 10,000 steps and lose weight.  The solution is “deskercise” or desk exercise.  Although I agree that is better to exercise with 30 minutes of sustained exercise, this is not always possible in our busy lives.  This article will help you maximize your steps during the workday.

Sit Ups
Sit Ups

What to get more steps:    

  1. Always take the stairs.  I work on the 6th floor (it is actually the 11-12 floor because the building has mechanical interstitial space).  Almost everyone knows how great the Stairmaster is great for cardio, but why not do the real thing.  If I take the stairs 6 times per day that is an added 2,200 steps.
  2. Walk to the copier or printer.  This is an easy way to get in some steps.  I used to send my admin assistant, but this gives me steps and helps with my productivity by adding time away from the computer screen.
  3. Exercise at lunch.  Exercise can happen anywhere.  Make a wrap or sandwich for lunch.  Bring lunch from home instead of going to a cafe or the cafeteria.   Use at least half of your lunchtime for a brisk walk.  Even 10-15 minutes can make a difference.  
  4. Stop the sedentary work life.  Work standing as much as possible.  It will help your posture and break up the monotony of the workday.  If you must sit, sit on a stability ball.  This will help your core strength.  
  5. Do push-ups, squats, and sit-ups between meetings.  Adding this little bit of exercise will boost your metabolism.  I do three sets of each.  In the military, I used to have difficulty doing push-ups, but I added sets of 5-10 throughout my day and it has made a world of difference.  
  6. Avoid the phone and email.  Instead of emailing a colleague that is down the hall, walk to their office.  It will enhance communication and your steps.  Who would have known that wandering the cubicles is good for both your step count and work relationships?  
  7. Park farther from the building.  This can add quite a few steps depending on the size of the corporation for which you are employed.  Even better do the same thing when you shop for groceries.  
  8. Walk 5-10 minutes on the hour.  Get up from the desk or table and walk a little.  It will help your produce and mental focus while it adds steps to your total.  
  9. Phone exercise.  If you must use the phone, stand up, move around, or do some simple squats or other leg exercises.  Simple movements can add up to calories burned. 
  10. Do isometrics.  Use the strength of one muscle to resist another.  It will help with tone and burn some calories.
  11. Dumbbells or resistance bands. Bring some dumbbells in to lift a few sets between meetings.  It will help with strength and burn some calories.  I keep a set of bands in my top desk drawer.  
  12. Exercise in the airport or bus/train station.  If you travel for work, use the wait time to walk.  Every step counts.  
  13. Make excuses to walk.  I work in a hospital and I do leadership and safety rounds regularly to review the current status of our staff and patients.  It builds relationships with the staff and patients and gets me a heck of a lot of steps.  
  14. Carve our time instead of curving your waistline.  Dedicate some time before, during, or after the workday for exercise.  I spend 15-30 minutes walking before each workday and 1/2 of my lunchtime.   
  15. Go to bed earlier.  If you get enough sleep, you are less likely to snooze your way through your dedicated exercise time.  Get ruthless with your diary and schedule exercise as a regular part of your daily routine.
  16. Do walk squats.  Lean against the wall and slowly inch your way into a squat.  This a great strength exercise.  
  17. Just plain stand.  Sitting has been shown to be worse than smoking.  I am not suggesting that you smoke – you should quit both.  Stand once an hour at a minimum.
  18. Tighten your muscles.  As you sit, give your muscles a gentle squeeze.  For example, tighten your buttocks.  Small muscle tightening can increase your calories burned and muscle tone.  
  19. Stay hydrated.  Drinking plenty of water will necessitate frequent trips to the restroom.
  20. Seat Dips.  Do not try this on a rolling chair.  Do dips on the edge of your chair to work your triceps.  If you this on a non-locking rolling chair, you will fall flat on your a$$.
  21. Chair Desk Swivel.  Work your obliques by rotating your chair from side to side.  I do 20-30 seconds x 3 sets per day.
  22. Crunches.  Do several sets of crunches to work your abdominals.  This will not only strengthen your midsection but also burn some calories.  30 reps x 3 sets per day.
  23. Shoulder Shrugs.  Do isometric shoulder shrugs.  This will strengthen your neck and shoulders and prevent neck and upper back pain.  
  24. Walk while you talk.  Pacing while you talk on the phone can add some non-conscious steps to your day.  Then again, if you sound incoherent it might hinder the conversation. 
  25. Take the scenic route.  Take the long route no matter where you are walking.  The extra steps in the grocery store, work, or just about anywhere may be the difference between 9,000 and 10,000 steps.  
  26. Walk to work.  If you live close enough and it is safe enough, walk or bike to work.  
Stability Ball Chair
Stability Ball Chair

The bottom line: Anything you can do to add steps to your days may help maintain or increase your weight loss.  You can really improve your fitness with anything from walking with your friends to joining a fitness or sports team.  Keep working toward more steps and you will be successful.  

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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