Adding Exercise to Your Office Workday

Office Exercise
6/13/2013

A couple of weeks at a health spa can recharge your body and reset your mind to living healthier.

But then you have to go back to work, 9 to 5, mostly sitting at your desk. You just can’t seem to fit into your schedule your fading resolve to increase your exercise routine.

One way to fit at least some of your exercising around your work schedule is to do limited to moderate exercise during the workday.

The U.S. surgeon general recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t come anywhere near that level of activity. Exercise physiologists and fitness experts suggest that getting at least some activity into an otherwise sedentary office job can bring significant health benefits.

Keli Calabrese, an exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, told WebMD that she advocates 60-second or 10-minute bursts of aerobic exertion. "This is cardio -- if you get in your [target] heart rate zone," she said. Improving your heart’s variability – its ability to jump from resting to "pumped" -- has been shown to increase longevity and decrease heart disease risk.

Calabrese’s ideas include doing a minute’s worth of jumping jacks or running in place for 60 seconds. Sit at your desk and pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the, mimicking a more aggressive football drill, for another 30 seconds. Even taking the stairs can boost your cardio, especially if you take them two at a time.

The Washington Post did a feature in September 2011 comparing various office exercises, ranking them for being difficult, sweaty and humiliating. Not surprisingly, the more effective exercises ranked higher for the difficult and sweat factors, not a plus if you have to go right back to work at your desk. The humiliation factor ranked higher on many of the exercises even if the sweat factor was low. Doing exercises at your desk is going to draw stares – unless you can get co-workers to join you.

A less noticeable but still effective workout is just to walk more.

Tim Church, an exercise researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, co-authored a study that found Americans are more than 100 calories less per day in the workplace than was true a few decades ago when not as many jobs were confined to a desk. But he said the answer might not be in office exercises to improve workplace fitness.  His solution was for workers to use a pedometer to measure how far they walk in a day, or how far they don’t walk. Research suggests people should walk around 10,000 steps or about five miles per day. Yet the average American walks just a tad more than 6,000 steps or three miles in a day. If you walk fewer than 5,000 steps per day, you fall into the category of sedentary.

An increase of only 2,000 to 2,500 steps per day can lead to modest improvements in weight and blood pressure. Just buying a pedometer and using it can prompt a person to increase the number of steps by more than 2,100 steps and increase overall physical activity by nearly 87 percent, according to a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007.

You can walk during lunch to increase your walking mileage, or simply park farther from the office, get off the bus of train a stop early, and use the stairs more often. Rather than meet someone at a conference table, arrange a walking meeting.

The important thing is to get off your chair and do something. You will likely improve your health in incremental steps, and even encourage yourself to make the time you didn’t think you had to take even bigger steps in a weekly exercise routine.

If you work better with working from videos, here is a quick office chair workout that you can fit in to your daily routine:

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