by Jess Beauchemin
It’s a familiar feeling: it’s late, you’re shutting down your computer after a long day at the office, and you realized you’ve barely gotten out of your chair all day. You feel drained, lethargic, and cranky. The last thing you want to do after you survive the evening commute is go to the gym. So yet another sedentary day goes by with you feeling badly about yourself. There’s no time! What’s the solution?
I work with clients all the time who have this issue. There are many ways to rearrange schedules and manage time differently to create space for a dedicated hour of workout time. But on days when that’s not possible, there are still things you can do at the office that will make you feel better and get you moving much more than you normally do.
“But, won’t I get sweaty? I have meetings with clients. I wear a suit!” There are immediately objections.
I’m going to provide you several options of movements you can practice at work, some of them without even breaking a sweat. “Exercise” is mostly touted for building muscle and burning fat, but there are myriad other benefits of exercise movement (I hate the E word). Taking small movement breaks throughout the day will:
- reduce stress
- improve your mood
- increase creativity
- mobilize your joints
- reduce pain
- enhance your energy
- bring a smile to your face
So while you’re not going to train to increase your bench press or sprinting speed in a 2-minute movement break at the office, you will experience all the other benefits of regular movement.
Here are a few options for movements you can practice right at your desk. For even more ideas and a demonstration, watch this video.
Seated neck rotations: roll your head in a circle from side to side, look up and down, left and right, and drop your ear to your shoulder
Full body stretch: stand up tall and reach for the sky, interlacing your fingers and pressing your palms up or keeping your hands apart and pointing fingers to the ceiling
Desk sun salute: Using a desk is a great way to modify a traditional yoga sun salute. There are many variations on the web, pick your favorite!
Chair dips: Place the palms of your hands on the seat of your chair, bring your feet out in front of you and lower your body towards the floor by bending your elbows. Press yourself back up again. Keep your torso vertical and if you have a chair on wheels, please push it against a wall first!
Squats: Pretend like you’re sitting back into the chair, but don’t touch it, then stand back up again. There are lots of variations of squats.
And, my best recommendation for a tool all office workers should have in their desk drawers is a lacrosse ball. Watch this video to learn how to roll your hands, forearms and feet to release tension and improve mobility.
Now, how do you implement these movements at the office? Try these strategies.
- While you’re on a phone call: hold a squat, walk around the office, roll your feet or hands on a lacrosse ball
- On your lunch break: dedicate 5-10 minutes to a movement practice using any combination of the movements listed above
- When you’re feeling mentally stuck: stand up and do 2-5 minutes of stretching or walking
- Every hour: set a timer to go off and get your butt out of your chair for 5 minutes, no matter what you’re in the middle of
- In a meeting: invite your co-worker/client to join you in a few minutes of movement (you’ll BOTH feel better after), or set up a walking meeting instead of a sitting meeting
- Create a challenge: Set a goal that’s reasonable for you to achieve, like I will do 3 sets of 10 push-ups today, or I will stretch for 5 minutes at least every 2 hours today
- Between switching tasks: dedicate 5 minutes to movement
- En route to another office, building, or your car: take the long way
- When you want to smash your computer: do Tabata intervals: 20 seconds of work/ 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes. Example: cycle through squats, pushups, lunges and dips for 4 minutes. You’ll successfully re-channel that smashing energy and break a sweat instead 😉
- In the afternoon slump: Schedule a regular afternoon break and do 10-15 minutes of deliberate movement, alone or with co-workers. If you usually just shovel a bag of M&M’s into your mouth or pound a latte just to have the energy to keep going, this is a great alternative. Movement has the same (if not better) energy-boosting effect, without all the junk!
Choose one of these strategies and make an effort to roll it into your daily work routine. Over time it will just become a part of what you do, and then you can think about adding in another strategy, one at a time. I bet you’ll be more productive with the time you have at work and feel less stiffness, pain and brain fog when you’re headed out of the office.
What strategies work best for you?
Jess Beauchemin is an explorer, hiker and personal trainer. Her passion for being active outdoors keeps her and her clients out of the gym. Jess believes that movement is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, and seeks ways to find joy in movement.