5 Sneaky Ways to Exercise During a Long Day at Work
So, you're pressed for time or too tired before or after your workday to exercise? Maybe there was a point in time when you were exercising regularly. But now you're at a place in your life where family, work commitments, or both have taken priority, making it tough for you to get to the gym.
"Cindy, I know that you needed to leave three hours ago, but could you review this tedious document for me?"
This doesn’t mean you need to give up on your workouts, it just means it's time to be more creative with them. If you can't commit to a block of time for an exercise routine, don't feel like all is lost, you could get some of the same health benefits by doing bodyweight movements throughout your day.
Don't kid yourself by thinking this doesn't count or that you need a thirty- to 45-minute block of time to make exercise effective. It's okay to spread it out, especially if you normally sit all day. Incorporating full-body movements, where you are using many muscles groups at once, gives you a tremendous amount of bang for your buck with your limited time.
Here are five movements you can easily add into your busy day.
1. Push Ups
If you do five pushups every time you walk pass a counter, get up from your desk, or go to the restroom (hands on the counter, your desk, or full push ups (maybe not actually in the bathroom, though), and you do that four times in one day, you could conceivably get in twenty push ups. Not bad. At the end of the day twenty pushups is twenty pushups, no matter how you get there. And if you're worried about getting sweaty during work - don't! Doing five or even ten pushups at a time is not going to make you sweat.
Benefits: Upper-body strength and core strength
"It's okay to spread it out, especially if you normally sit all day. Incorporating full-body movements ... gives you a tremendous amount of bang for your buck with your limited time."
How to Do It:
- Stand a few feet away from your desk or counter and place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the edge. Your body will be at an angle.
- Keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears, your glutes tight and your body in one straight line from shoulder to feet, lower your body toward the desk or counter, allowing your elbows to bend at least to a ninety-degree angle.
- Exhale and push away until your arms are straight.
2. One Leg Stand
When you get up from your desk, make one leg do most of the work. Instead of just standing up like you usually do - stand up on one leg. You may need to use your desk for assistance at first, but that's okay. Stick with it and soon you won't need any assistance at all. That's a great goal to reach for. Your legs will get strong this way and the slightly weaker side will develop because the stronger side can't help out.
Benefits: Lower-body strength and improved balance
How to Do It:
- Sit tall on the edge of your chair holding one leg straight and foot off the floor.
- Using your desk for assistance push through the heel of the foot on the floor and stand up.
- Put both feet back on the floor and sit back down.
- Repeat on the other side.
Keeping my heel planted on the ground while using the desk for assistance gives me stability through the movement.
Work toward using your desk less and less for assistance as you build up your strength. Just be sure to work both legs. Stand up on the right leg, put both feet on the floor, sit down, and then stand up on the left leg. If you can do that five times on each leg during your day you're well on your way to developing much stronger legs and hips.
3. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Twice before your lunch break and twice after your lunch break, designate a time where you stand up from your desk and do ten shoulder blade squeezes. When you're sitting at a desk hunched over most of the day, your posture will suffer, your neck may ache, and your shoulders get tight. The shoulder blade squeeze will stretch the front of your chest and shoulders while working your upper back and shoulder blade area.
Benefits: Improved posture and loosens up the chest.
How to Do It:
- Stand tall, arms out in front of your body at shoulder height, palms up.
- Be sure to keep you shoulders down and away from your ears during this movement.
- Keeping your arms straight with the thumbs pointing back, bring your arms back and actively squeeze your shoulder blades together.
I like to imagine that I am squeezing something between my shoulder blades when performing this exercise.
4. Stairs Instead of the Elevator
This is a great way to sneak in some cardiovascular work while also strengthening the legs. When the choice is stairs or the elevator, always choose the stairs. Do that at least two or three times during your day and you can check off some beneficial cardio intervals. Your heart and lungs will have to work a little harder, but this is a positive change that will help to make them stronger.
5. 20-Minute Walk During Lunch Hour
If you take twenty minutes out of your lunch break for walking, you'll burn extra calories, get your endorphins moving, and feel more energized and productive the rest of your day. Your food will also digest better. If all you can give is fifteen minutes during that lunch hour, take it - that works, too.
Think about keeping a pair of comfortable sneakers handy to encourage this good habit.
Exercise Can Happen Anywhere
Incorporating these simple movements during your workday is a doable, realistic way for you to sneak in some basic strength moves without taking extra time. The biggest obstacle may be just committing to doing it. Like most things, results don't occur until we do something, and consistency plays an important role in our success. Once you start, though, it's easy to keep going because you'll feel stronger and better.
"If you can't commit to a block of time for an exercise routine, don't feel like all is lost, you could get some of the same health benefits by doing bodyweight movements throughout your day."
As you become more accustomed to working out again, whatever activities you take pleasure in doing will become easier and more enjoyable. So on those days out of the office or weekend family time, take a stress free and relaxed approach towards activities. Go play in the park with your kids, discover some local hiking trails or take in a movie. Come Monday morning, you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle that busy workweek and you can count on some extra strength and energy from these new full-body movements.
Check out these related articles:
- Beyond Longevity - A Program to Feel Great Working at a Desk
- Cheating Death - How to Thrive In a Sit-Down Work Environment
- Having It All - Strength Gains at the Office
- What's New On Breaking Muscle Today
Photos 1 and 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.