6 Ways to Stay Active at Work
Wake up. Go to work. Sit at desk for eight hours (or more). Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Does this routine sound familiar?
You're not alone. The average American spends about 33 percent of the week sitting, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
To combat the problem, the The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog suggests a new exercise option: an under-the-desk pedal machine that quietly tracks your progress on your computer.
A recent study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed 18 office workers who used the pedal machine as often as they desired for a month. Participants used the machine for an average of 12 out of 20 work days, finding it easy to pedal while reading but "had mixed results when it came to talking on the phone or using the computer," the Journal notes.
If such inventions aren't practical for you, here are six other ways to squeeze physical activity into your workday.
1. Pick One Day.
If you want to maintain a healthy fitness level, you need to work out at least three times a week, says Nancy Krank, a personal trainer in Los Angeles. If you're a workaholic, Krank suggests setting aside the weekend to guarantee two days of exercise and then targeting a third day during the work week. "Pick one day where you know you'll have to push yourself," says Krank. Planning ahead may make the idea of exercise in the middle of the week seem less daunting.
2. Add Up Minutes.
Exercise can be cumulative, says Krank. Thirty minutes of walking is recommended daily, but if that chews up too much of your lunch hour, Krank suggests breaking it up. "There's nothing wrong with doing 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes during lunch, and 10 minutes after work," she says. "The sum of the parts makes the whole. You get just as much benefit [as doing 30 minutes straight]."
3. Keep Inexpensive Exercise Equipment at Work.
Krank advises using one- to two-pound hand weights while walking and swinging your arms at chest level. "This increases your heart rate without having to walk faster or longer," she says. Resistance bands also are useful for strength and toning, and are compact enough to keep in your desk drawer. Wearing a pedometer helps you track the number of steps you take in a given day.
4. Don't Use Sweat as an Excuse.
No one wants to be that person who stinks up the office after a midday workout. But Krank says that if you keep your exercise to about 20 minutes, you'll have enough time to cool down during the remainder of your lunch hour.
5. Set an Alarm.
Computer programs such as Stretchware.com set reminders on your computer throughout the day and guide you through a series of stretches. These are simple desk exercises that work muscles and help concentration. The reminders also force you to give your eyes a break from staring too long at a computer screen. Setting any kind of alarm that reminds you to get up from your desk periodically is good for you in the long run, says Krank.
6. Eat Small and Often.
The motivation to move lessens when you're either really hungry or really full. Instead of eating one big meal at lunch, Krank advises five or six mini-meals or snacks during the day to keep your blood sugar level up. "Most people hit a wall by late morning or early afternoon. Small meals prevent that," she says. If you decide to exercise in the middle of the day, she suggests eating something small both before and after your workout, ideally a mix of carbohydrates and protein.
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