In today’s modern world, we find ourselves confined to a desk job, spending long hours hunched over a computer screen, buried in tasks and deadlines. The nature of this work can take a toll on our bodies, leading to various health issues like chronic pain, poor posture, etc. Even if you’ve set fitness goals and are totally motivated to make a change this year, getting yourself to the gym after work is more than half the battle. It’s easy to make excuses that you are too tired and worked too hard to get in that post-work gym sesh or squeeze in some physical activity. However, by making a few simple adjustments to your daily routine, like setting out to find a gym near work, you’ll feel more energized and driven to totally knock those goals out of the park. Simple activities done at your desk or in the office can have many benefits including aiding in natural pain relief by fixing your posture or building lower body and core strength. These tips will help in how to stay fit at a desk job, and inspire you to go out and get it when the work day is over!
1. Stay Conscious of Your Posture
Even if we pay attention to our posture when we walk and exercise, after just a few minutes of sitting at a desk we start to slump. You can combat this by making sure that you are sitting up tall in your chair with your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle.
Bad posture can affect your workout by misaligning your spine and causing you to be off balance, even with proper exercise techniques. Improper posture can also lead to neck pain, especially from slouching over a desk all day long. So don’t sabotage your workout by slumping at your desk! If you notice yourself slouching, fix it! This is totally reversible, and fairly easy to address.
2. Watch What You Eat
You would be surprised how much snacking goes on in the workplace. You can avoid incessant snacking with a few simple changes. Number one, don’t skip breakfast! Breakfast helps to boost your metabolism after you sleep and combat those fatty-food cravings at lunchtime. If you find yourself feeling rushed in the morning, keep some instant oatmeal or cereal in your desk.
Another way to avoid snacking and cut down on vending machine visits is to pack your own lunch and snacks. This simple step will keep you from grabbing a Snickers in the afternoon. For guilt-free snacking try baby carrots, nuts, or fruits.
3. Drink Lots of Fluids
Everyone knows that we’re supposed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, but did you know that filling up your water bottle can also help you stay active? Take a break from work and walk to the refill station or water fountain to add some extra steps into your stagnant day. Every step counts when it comes to reaching your goals.
Furthermore, water helps keep you alert, hydrated and full to fight off that premature hunger at 11 am. For better results, ditch the diet soda and midday coffee for green tea, a cold-busting immunity booster.
4. Find Time to Walk and Move Around
If you’re wondering how to stay active at a desk job, you can start with a simple activity like walking around. Prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your posture and muscles, so it’s essential to incorporate regular movement throughout the day. As stated above, every step counts when you are working towards specific goals. In order to get in those extra steps, park further away in the morning and opt for the stairs. You could also grab your work buddy and take a walk during your lunch break. There is nothing quite like walking with a friend and getting some exercise in at the same time to make your lunch break even better.
Some other things to include are: taking business calls standing up, walking to your colleague’s desk instead of sending an email or making a phone call, or, if you commute via public transportation, try getting off at a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way. All of these tips are going to help you reach your goals quicker and stay healthier in general. So don’t forget to take frequent breaks every hour or so and engage in simple stretches to relieve tension in your neck, shoulders, and back.
5. Perform Desk Workouts Throughout the Day
One effective way to combat the blues is to integrate desk exercises and stretches into your routine. Even if you can’t find as much time to move away from your desk, you can perform small workouts while sitting that will help strengthen and tone your muscles. Here are just a few that we love!
- Arm Circles:
While sitting, hold your arms straight out to the side with your feet planted firmly on the floor and back straight. Slowly move your arms in tight circles forward for about 25 circles, reverse and perform 25 circles backward. This exercise helps strengthen muscles in your neck and upper back.
If you have an office or private room you can escape to, try doing 10-20 squats every hour. Work in a cubicle? Make it a challenge. Tell all of your coworkers what you are planning on doing and get up and do squats together. Squats burn tons of calories by working all of the muscles in your legs. Not only that, but your glutes are going to love you!
- Seated Leg Raises:
While seated, hold your leg out straight in front of you for 3 seconds, lift and lower without touching the floor for 20 reps, and then switch legs. You can add weight by looping your purse or backpack around your leg and then beginning the exercise. This workout will tone your legs in no time, while also building core strength.
- Stand Up!
If work allows, order yourself a stand-up desk . Standing during work, even for part of the day, along with many other benefits, can help you lower your risk of weight gain, and has been proven to increase productivity!
- Sit Down!
Okay, so maybe a stand-up desk won’t work at every company. There is a great alternative – sitting on a fitness ball (also known as swiss ball, exercise ball or bosu ball). Sitting on a fitness or exercise ball helps you work on balance by engaging your core to sit up straight. This helps to reduce lower back pain and improve posture. Not only that, but if you are in a time-crunch and unable to make it to the gym, you can perform a ton of workouts right at your desk!
6. Find a Gym Close to Work
Searching for a gym that suits you can be a lengthy process, even with the simple search of “gyms near me” online! However, if you find a gym that is closer to work, you can get in some extra gym-time at lunch. Better yet, you could finally make it to those early morning workouts before your day begins. There will be fewer excuses at the end of the day when the gym is just a hop skip and a jump away!
Working at a desk can really put a damper on your health and fitness goals. By following these simple steps, you will come out of the year stronger and healthier!
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- “Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169
Leigh Smith, Dana. “10 Slimming Foods to Eat if You Sit All Day.” Eat This. 30 September, 2016. https://www.eatthis.com/tips-for-desk-jobs/
- Collier, Jasmin. “How to stay active in the workplace.” Medical News Today. 29 March, 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321375
- Yetman, Daniel. “30 Office Exercises to Try Right Now.” Healthline. 4 January, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/office-exercises
- “Staying fit and healthy when you sit at a desk all day.” Intermountain Healthcare. 9 September, 2019. https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2019/09/staying-fit-and-healthy-when-you-sit-at-a-desk-all-day/