Having a job where you can sit comfortably in a safe environment each day is a privilege, but extended periods of inactivity can lead to adverse health effects, lethargy, and even mood declines. Luckily, we’ve gathered a handful of tips that can help you get up and out of that chair, boost your activity levels, and in turn, improve your health (and productivity). And, even if you are an avid post-work exercise fiend, there could be more you can do to better yourself throughout the day.
“Exercisers are usually only moving for one or two hours a day, and then they’re sedentary before and after that single bout of movement,” top-rated author of Movement Matters Katy Bowman says.
While it could be worse, that one stretch of movement simply isn’t enough to satisfy the human need to get moving. To combat this, experts have recommended taking small breaks throughout the day to move around. A 2015 peer-reviewed study found that sedentary time was linked to “deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” So how can you switch up your schedule to avoid this? It actually isn’t too hard.
Take a “walking meeting”
With remote work serving at least a portion of the work week for many around the world, meetings have become yet another dreaded hour sitting at a small desk. If the meeting in question is a conference call, try stepping outside and walking around the block or a quiet space to take the call, using headphones to free up your hands. If the call is a video conference, consider proposing an audio call instead (hint: Zoom fatigue is a real thing).
Try the 20-8-2 rule
Break down each half-hour of your day into the 20-8-2 rule: sit at your desk for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, walk around for 2 minutes (even if it’s just around the room, or get up to use the restroom).
This will help your day go by quicker, can relieve stiffness, and prevent cramping, too.
Embark on an active commute
Some employees are switching to a hybrid work system, where they are in the office a few days of the week and at home for the others to help minimize health concerns and increase work-life balance. If that applies to you, try biking or walking to work if possible to get some extra activity in. If you aren’t able to do so entirely, consider mixing up your commute. For example, if you take public transportation to go a long distance or cross a body of water to the office, consider exiting a stop or two early, and walking or biking the rest of the way. Depending on where you live, this can actually decrease your commute time, also! (Goodbye, traffic.)
Track your movement
Investing in a movement tracker like FitBit, Apple Watch, or similar products can be great for your health. They can remind you when to stand up and how much progress you’re making on your physical activity throughout the day. Although this option does require some upfront cost, most of them last a long while and can really pay off health-wise.
Keep water at your desk
This may sound counterintuitive, but keeping a big bottle of water at your desk will not only help you stay hydrated, but it will increase your trips to the restroom too, which of course will help you get up and out of your office chair. Drinking enough water has also been proven to improve mood, decrease anxiety, and help you lose weight.
Eat your lunch somewhere else
No, this doesn’t mean you buy lunch every day. With an increased number of workers sitting at home, there’s a propensity to just make a quick meal and sit back down at your computer to keep chugging along. If you’re at an office, sometimes it’s tempting to just reach into your bag and type with one hand while you eat with the other. Instead, try taking your lunch break outside or in a safely distanced common space where you can enjoy pulling away from work a bit. The break will not only up your activity levels but will also increase your productivity in the long run.