7 Ways to Incorporate Exercise Into Your Workday
Exercise is generally good for you. While this isn’t a particularly enlightening or radical statement, it’s an important concept to keep in mind as we go about our day-to-day routines. Exercise can help you achieve an energy boost, improve your mood, control your weight, and avoid or manage chronic health conditions, among many other benefits.
Many barriers can prevent us from getting the exercise needed to enjoy the benefits of physical activity. While we may only need 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, busy work schedules can prevent us from hitting this minimum amount. An insufficient amount of time, motivation, or support leads a number of Americans to fail to get a sufficient amount of exercise. In fact, more Americans consume fast food each day (36%) than get the necessary amount of exercise (23%).
Physical inactivity can lead to a number of adverse outcomes, including high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and many other ill effects. In fact, research indicates that the mortality risk of reduced exercise is “greater than or equal to traditional clinical risk factors such as smoking.” If you wanted to achieve optimal health, you wouldn’t pick up a habit like smoking — right?
It’s important to view physical inactivity in a similar light and do what you can to incorporate some kind of exercise into each day. It can feel overwhelming to try to get in some exercise during your busy week, but there are many strategies you can use to make getting the required amount of exercise more achievable.
Ready to get started on your path to greater physical fitness? Review the different ways to get exercise below and determine which can fit into your workday.
Take the Stairs
It’s a common crossroads we encounter each day at the office: Should you take the elevator or the stairs? Instead of filing into the elevator with your co-workers, go for the stairs. Climbing stairs is an excellent way to get some aerobic exercise, improve your balance, and improve your leg power without needing to invest in any kind of special equipment.
While a couple of flights of stairs may seem like an inconsequential choice for your health, remember that stair climbing can accumulate over each workday. A flight here and a flight there can add up to some serious activity.
If getting to your workplace exclusively via stairs is unrealistic, however, don’t run yourself ragged by hoofing it to the 50th floor. Instead, go up a few flights of stairs, then take the elevator the rest of the way. As you get acclimated to higher levels of physical activity, you can add additional flights to your routine.
Park Far Away
Whether you’re parking at work or stopping by the grocery store after clocking out, snagging a good parking spot can be tough. However, the “good” parking spots are actually the ones that are almost always open — those that are farthest away from your destination.
Using distant parking spots forces you to walk to make up the difference, which is a valuable opportunity to add to your daily exercise. If walking to and from your vehicle takes two to three minutes, you can easily add 10 to 15 minutes in just a few trips each day. If you start your new fitness journey by aiming for just 30 minutes a day, you’ll accomplish half of your daily goal by simply being wise when choosing your parking spot.
In the long run, parking further away can even save you some time. Instead of jockeying around the parking lot for those coveted spots right next to the building, you can quickly park in those uncontested spots far away, briskly walk to your destination, and get on with your day.
Bike to Work
Driving, carpooling, or taking the bus each day may be the easiest way for you to get to work, but it certainly isn’t the best way to stay active. Instead of taking this route, have you considered riding a bicycle? Regular cycling is associated with a number of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, better joint mobility, improved posture/coordination, and much more.
In addition to being a more eco-conscious choice, biking to work is an effective way to get some exercise if you live within a reasonable distance of your workplace to do so (generally no more than 20 miles, though it’s important to consider your physical condition).
Bikes are relatively cheap and accessible methods of transportation. Even if you don’t have a bike, many cities have adopted bicycle-sharing systems, making access to free or cheap bike rentals more widely available. It’s important to explore your options to determine if biking to work is an option for you.
Note that biking may not be a viable method of travel in some areas. Cities like San Francisco, Austin, and Boston are notorious for rising statistics in cyclist injuries and fatalities. Further, many suburban or rural areas may lack sufficient paths for cyclists. If your area does not have safe routes for cyclists, consider the risks involved with switching to biking before committing to this exercise method.
Take Fitness Breaks
To maintain your focus, you should be sure to take regular breaks throughout your workday. One of the best ways to get a boost of energy during a 5- to 10-minute break is to get some physical exercise in. This can involve some simple bodyweight exercises, yoga, or a brisk walk outdoors and back, among many other options.
It’s important to take notice of how your body responds to these fitness breaks. You should notice that, over time, you’re able to take on more intense exercise for longer periods of time. Slowly ramp up your level of activity to reap the biggest benefits from your breaks.
On the other hand, if you get fatigued easily or notice irregular signs, there may be underlying health conditions. For instance, if you find yourself coughing or clearing your throat much more than usual, you may be exhibiting symptoms of atypical GERD. It’s important to speak with a doctor and seek treatment if you experience such changes as you take on more physical activity.
Stretch at Your Desk
To stay limber and ready to tackle your work duties, you should regularly stretch — particularly if you sit at a desk all day. Doing so can refresh you and help you feel less tired. Some examples of stretches that can be done while you are seated include:
- Back stretch: Reach both hands around the back of your office chair, then arch your back and move your chest forward for 30 seconds. You can also try sitting up straight and interlocking your hands, then rising them high above your head with your palms facing up for 10 seconds.
- Lower back stretch: Raise an arm over your head and bend it across your body. Grab your raised wrist with your other hand, then slowly tug down for a deep stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat for the other arm.
- Wrist stretch: With your arms in a straight, horizontal line across your chest, press the palms of your hands together and hold for 15 seconds. Then push the other sides of your hands together for 15 seconds.
- Hamstring stretch: Straighten your legs, placing your heels on the floor, then bend your body toward your feet. Keep your back straight while bending over, then hold for 30 seconds.
Doing a few reps of the above stretches each day can do a world of good for your body. Give it a shot now to see how it feels!
Stand Up Often
In your efforts to get a minimum amount of exercise each day, be sure to take frequent breaks to stand up. Sitting for too long is a risk factor for many health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high body fat levels, and more. Indeed, excessive periods of sitting is associated with life-threatening conditions like heart disease and even cancer.
Finding some time during the workday to stand up can have a real impact on your wellbeing. Even better, if you can use a standing desk during your work, you can seriously reduce your risk of experiencing negative health outcomes associated with excessive sitting.
Visit With Coworkers
If you need a little direction in your regular walks, consider taking some time to visit your coworkers. If they are up for it, they may even opt to join you for regular walks. This allows you to enjoy the physical benefits of exercise, the mental and social benefits of connecting with others, and the professional benefits of furthering your relationships with others in your job field. Building this expectation can even help you hold yourself accountable for getting exercises at regular times each day.
If you want to maintain productivity while fitting some physical activity into your day, consider holding meetings while walking. If all stakeholders are willing, you can arrange for meetings to be held on the go. The physical perks of exercise, including increased energy and focus, can yield many benefits for meetings as well.
Visiting with coworkers in this manner can be superior to some other options when it comes to health, such as going to nearby restaurants together. Instead of munching on fast food while catching up with coworkers, you can get some exercise in together — and stick to healthier eating habits during your lunch break.
These are just a few ways you can begin to incorporate more exercise into your workday. Taking some effort to add some of these to your daily routine is a great step toward greater physical fitness. With time, they can become habits that could yield health benefits for many years to come.