On average, we’re not very good at keeping fit in the modern age.
It’s understandable: you’re busy, you work a desk job, and by the time you get home the only marathon you want to run is the TV-show kind. Fitness can be an uphill struggle when you’re seated all day.
Today, we’re going to offer a little tonic to that low-activity life and discuss 8 of the most important and accessible ways that you can stay fit with a desk job and build better habits for your health – maybe even picking up a little extra energy along the way!
8 ways to get and keep fit with a desk job
- Daily movement
Step one is simple: move every day.
It doesn’t need to be crushing a gym workout for an hour or three, but a little activity goes a long way. Topping up your metabolism with daily movement – whether that’s walking the dogs, chasing the kids around the park, or going for a kick-about with your friends all add up.
We’ve talked about the benefits of moving every day before, but when you’re living behind a desk these are even more important. You’re being inactive for long periods every day – try balancing it out with a little bit of active, healthful movement every single day.
- Finding movement in the workplace
Finding a way to get some movement in at work – even if it’s simple like a walk around or a bit of desk-stretching – can really help. Get yourself up every 30 or 60 minutes on the dot to take a short walk around, even if you’re just going to get some water.
Unbroken periods of sitting are worse for health where posture declines over time. Activity, even walking, helps re-activate the muscles and keeps you conscious of desk posture. A short walk to break it up could be all it takes to help keep you active and keep those muscles switched on.
- Active hobbies
Hobbies are fun – and active hobbies are a great way to keep fit, too.
Go out there and find movement and activities that you enjoy. This is the best way to stay fit and healthy for life: try everything until you find something you’re genuinely passionate about and enjoy. You remember that – enjoying movement as a kid – right?
Well that never has to stop. We just get boring, old, and stuffy. So many of the most fun things in life – rock climbing, swimming, grappling sports, throwing sports, a little bit of track, playing in casual sports with friends, even extreme tag – are all fun and great for fitness.
Find fun in movement and you’ll be well on your way to fitness without even realizing that you’re doing it. Stop making movement a chore or a punishment – start looking for tasters of activities that make it fun!
- Standing desk?
Changing how you work your desk job isn’t always possible but, if you’ve got one of those cool new-age offices with bean bags, you might be able to get a standing desk going.
These are much better and offer a posturally- and metabolically-healthier way of living and working. Spending more time standing and less time sitting is healthier even when you control for every other aspect of fitness like exercise.
A standing desk might be a little uncouth at the office but can be a great way to stay fit when working from home. It might be a little unusual in your office – difference tends to draw a few eyes in most offices – but it’s a great way to improve your posture and support your health.
Some standing desk setups are convertible, allowing you to stand and sit as you please, which can still offer great benefits.
Stand up straight, stay fit.
- Exercise ball seat?
If you’re not sold on standing up all day but you’re ready to commit to a better desk life, an exercise ball or ergonomic chair can be a small price to pay.
These are two examples of how you can take some of the worst effects of a desk job away without removing either the desk or the job. They help support better posture or force you to support your own posture – the latter obviously being better for health and fitness.
Again, this might not be for every office but talk to your team and see what options are available. Corporate health and wellbeing are becoming cool in the 21st century and, if you’re providing your own exercise ball, they might be a little more flexible (ironically).
- Desk stretches
Desk stretching isn’t as wacky as it sounds – it’s a great little habit to develop for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Stretching is a form of movement and helps build control and range of motion in your joints. It’s also just a great way of staying active and reminding your muscles that they have to do their job – especially as postural support and control.
Not only that, but a little active stretching every hour or two helps relieve some of the stagnation of working in the same environment constantly. Changing activities helps freshen your mind up and stretching, specifically, offers a way of keeping physically energized and healthy throughout the day.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAq9vV7gkrs
- HIIT and time-efficient workouts
Struggling to find time for workouts? Invest your time and effort in high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.
There are a lot of trendy HIIT wannabes out there, but the concept is very simple and effective: work harder, not longer. Reduce the length of workouts to 15-20 minutes and make sure that you’re packing every minute with some hard work.
These kinds of workouts are highly time-efficient, and you can get them in with any combination of equipment (or none). You just need a little space, time, and hard work – and there are dozens of great examples online.
Work at the highest pace you can hold for a while, then ease off for a while, and repeat until you’re sweaty and have put in a full shift. At 15 minutes a day, there’s no schedule too busy for it.
- Frequency: key to fitness on a busy schedule?
It’s counterintuitive but the benefit of more regular exercise is that you don’t need to commit to so much at once. Daily exercise and HIIT are good examples of this principle, but not the only ones.
If you’re training every day, you can pop into the gym before or after work, or on a weekend, for a short workout. If you can commit 20 minutes then you can cycle through short workouts using a single major exercise (or two).
For example, you might spend 20 minutes at the gym everyday like so:
Tuesday:Pulling movement (like a barbell or dumbbell row, pull up, or inverted row)
Wednesday:Single-leg exercise (like a lunge or step up)
Thursday:Upper body pressing movement (like a bench press or military press)
Friday:hip hinging exercise (like a deadlift, Romanian deadlift, or kettlebell swing)
Saturday:Core exercise (or rest)
Sunday:Upper body pressing movement (the one you didn’t do on Thursday)
The result is almost 2 hours a week of top-quality training without too much commitment each day. This works best if you’re near a gym at work, but you can adjust down to 2 exercises and less sessions if your gym includes a time commitment getting there and back.
There are tons of ways you can structure it, but the result is the same: short workouts adding up over the week and not eating into your life in a major way. The only major change you’ll notice is looking and feeling much better – with the sense of overcoming your personal challenges.
Finding work-life-health balance
The key to staying fit with a desk job is a simple, 2-step process that only becomes difficult when you start applying it:
- Reduce the negative effects of the desk job in your life: stay moving in the day, stretch, improve the ergonomics of your workplace, and try to avoid too much sitting.
- Find a place for movement and exercise in your life: practice short workouts, find active hobbies, reduce the commitment required for exercise, and try to find joy in movement.
These are easy to say and harder to do because they have to fit your life personally. It’s easy to figure out what you should do but the challenge is finding the opportunity and passions that make it worthwhile.
Get out there and try things, work through today’s tips and see what helps you the most. Remember that fitness is more than just structured exercise – your nutrition, sleep, and hydration matter, too. Find even a slightly better balance day to day, week to week, and month to month and you’ll change your life completely.