Being active at work

Being active at work


Being active at work

You’re reading this at your desk. You are slumped, as usual, over your keyboard. Your hand rests heavily on your mouse. Occasionally you twitch it to open a new tab or email.

The only other movement you make is the flickering of your eyes from webpage to webpage. And now, you learn, clicking on a headline and casting your eye down the article, that office workers — people like you — must exercise for an hour a day to counter the death risk of modern working lifestyles. How, you ask, can I fit an hour — an hour — into my busy routine of sending emails and surreptitiously checking Facebook?

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Tweak your routine

The good news is that walking counts. Brisk, but walking nevertheless. Walk 10 minutes to the station every day? Make sure to work up a sweat. Including your return walk home, that’s 20 minutes — a third of your overall target. If the bus stop is outside your house, then there's probably no hope for you — but see if you can’t trot bleary-eyed to the next stop instead. And if you drive, park further from the office than you normally would, or go for a stroll once you’ve parked. Oh, and take the stairs instead of the lift — but you knew that. And you do it. Right?

Use an app

Tracking your steps can help you motivate yourself to take a few more, not least by telling you how many calories you’ve burnt in doing so. You don’t need a Fitbit or other wearable tech to use them — smartphones do the same thing.  Apple Health is good enough on its own, but try Map My Fitness on Android, or RunKeeper if you want to go a bit faster.  And if you want to forget that you’re doing exercise, use augmented-reality apps like Pokémon Go.

Exercise at your desk

No, honestly. Stay with me. Nobody wants to look like a twerp, but nobody wants to die young either. And there are exercises you can do, in your office, that will not only count towards that target, but also tone you up. TIME magazine suggests walking a couple of paces away from your desk, and then doing press-ups against the desk’s edge. It’s good for “impressing your workplace crush”, they say, optimistically. And there’s plenty more where that came from. Lifting heavy books. Doing squats against the wall. Your desk is your oyster. Just don’t expect to have anyone to eat lunch with.

Exercise at home

You could just go for a run or something, but if it’s too cold / warm / wet / dry, then there’s still no excuse; exercise at home. Web-based workouts bring all the benefits of the gym without the need to actually physically transport yourself there. High-intensity interval training, where you push yourself as hard as you can for very short amounts of time, will do you a lot more good in five minutes than an hour’s walking. And you can do it anywhere you can do a press-up (except, perhaps the side of your office desk).

Get up more often

The same scientists who found that office workers need an hour’s exercise a day, say that a five-minute hourly break can help. Go outside for a coffee, say, or find a colleague in person rather than communicate over email. Tethering exercise to humdrum working activities can help. Some people recommend using a phone headset, so you can stroll around as you talk.

Buy some equipment

If all this seems too amateurish, then bring out the big guns. Try a standing desk — they can sit on top of your normal desk, ready to be erected when you feel like looming over your colleagues. Or, even better, the treadmill desk. Alternatively, you can stand on a balance board while you work, strengthening your core, or secretly pedal away under your desk.

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