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Easy Ways to Get Fit While You Work

A little bit of change can go a long way.


Art Credit: Emma Block

We know it’s important to be active and to go to the gym but a new study from The Women’s Health Initiativefound that may not be enough. With a link between a sedentary lifestyle and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, it’s evident that going to the gym an hour a day doesn’t prevent the diseases caused by sitting all day. In fact, sitting more than eleven hours a day increases your risk of premature death by 12 percent. Don’t forget, those eleven hours include sitting at work, lounging on the couch watching Netflix, and sleeping. The hours add up quickly.

To combat the negative effects of sitting all day, there’s a new trend of using standing desks or treadmill desks to be fit at work. Downside: Both solutions are expensive, and it can be difficult to wrangle your employer to spring for new desks. But you don't have to have fancy ergonomic equipment to get in more movement at your 9-to-5.

study from BBC and the University of Chester found that when participants stood just three hours a day, their heart rates increased by an average of ten beats per minute. This increased heart rate means that they burned 0.7 more calories per minute. Though it doesn’t seem like much,when you add it up, that’s 50 extra calories burned per hour, 750 calories a week, and 30,000 calories a year—equivalent to burning 8 pounds of fat or running ten marathons in a year.

Even if you don’t stand for three hours a day, you can increase your health by getting up and moving for a few minutes every hour. Here are a few suggestions to get you moving at work and reasons it's so important.


There are easy ways to get more active at work without a treadmill desk. Joel Harper, personal trainer to celebrities (whose clients include everyone from Oprah to Olympic medalists), recommends that office workers get up once every hour for three to five minutes. He suggests that you walk to another area of the office, get a drink of water, maybe stretch a little, and then return to your desk.

Just think, if you move around for six minutes every hour, that’s 10 percent of each hour that you’re active and not sitting. Over the course of an eight-hour day, you’ve fit in forty-eight minutes of activity. By getting up, refilling your coffee cup, taking the stairs to the bathroom on a different floor, or walking to the far-away printer instead of the one nearby, you’re being more active. If you really want to challenge yourself, try increasing your activity to twelve minutes every hour, by standing while working or doing small exercises while sitting at your desk. That’s 20 percent of each hour, meaning you get 96 minutes of activity in your workday without even going to the gym.


To be more active at work, try challenging your fellow employees to a fitness contest. Write the challenge, such as taking the stairs once or doing two sets of fifteen jumping jacks during the course of the day, on a whiteboard at the front of the office. If it’s fun and everyone is involved, it’s easier to stay motivated and ultimately get fit—plus no one will stare at you while you do jumping jacks in your cubicle.

If you need to discuss a project with a coworker, walk over to her desk instead of sending an email. Ask her to walk around the office with you as you both brainstorm. Instead of meeting in the conference room and sitting around the table, have everyone stand. Your meetings may be more productive because you’re standing and thinking rather than drifting off in an afternoon slump—and the meeting will likely be shorter because no one wants to stand for two hours.


Even if you work from home, there are still plenty of ways to be more active. Instead of meeting someone for coffee, meet at a local park and take a quick walk. At home, set a timer on your phone for thirty or sixty minutes to remind you to get up and move. When the timer goes off, stand up, stretch, and refill your water bottle. Another tip: Rather than bringing that 16-ounce mug of coffee to your desk, try filling a smaller coffee cup or water bottle. You’ll have to get up more often to refill. And, the more you drink, the more you’ll have to walk to the bathroom. Each of these steps adds up quickly.

Even if all these tips seem small, building up your activity is better for your health—every little bit helps.