Fitness 101: Exercise for Employees

What do writers, engineers and secretaries have in common? Along with millions of other full-time employees, they spend their days sitting at a desk. Even if 30 to 60 minutes of gym time is on the day’s agenda, whether pre- or post-work, spending so much time in a sitting position could be a lot more harmful than they know.

What’s the Problem?

Research presented at the 2012 British Psychological Society’s Annual Occupational Conference found that the average desk jockey worker spends five hours and 41 minutes at a desk during the day. On top of that, they spend seven hours sleeping, as well as variable amounts of time watching TV on the couch, surfing the Internet at a home desk or sitting and chatting with friends at happy hour. When you add it all up, the amount of time a person spending sitting on their tush dwarfs any exercise time spent at the gym or on the road.

So, what’s the problem? This particular research notes a correlation between the amount of time spent sitting and a person’s body mass. In layman’s terms, the more time you spend at your desk working, the more likely you are to be overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, the bad news for desk jockeys doesn’t end there. In 2009, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal for the American College of Sports Medicine, published research that linked time spent sitting to the rates of mortality from all types of causes. Here’s a woeful statistic straight from the study: Individuals who sat the most were approximately 50 percent more likely to die during the study’s follow-up period than those who sat the least, even with taking age, smoking and physical activity into consideration.

What’s the Solution?

For most, it’s not an option to quit your job and spend your days lifting weights in the gym. What these employees need to do is focus on boosting levels of activity throughout the day, even if it’s just small movements such as walking to a coworker’s desk rather than sending an email.

Does that sound like cliched health advice that you have read in consumer magazines? Those tips might all be legitimate, it turns out. Parking farther away at the grocery store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and doing jumping jacks during commercial breaks all help break up your extended periods of sitting down. Here are some other ways the typical desk jockey can help decrease their waist size and increase their lifespan:

Activities at Work

Even someone who works in the smallest office can get a little more active throughout the day.

Get some fresh air. This is the easiest task to complete. Once every hour or two, push your chair away from the desk, head down the stairs and go outside. Your body and mind will thank you for the five-minute break from your work. If you can swing a longer lunch break, aim for a 1- to 2-mile walk before returning to your desk.

Do Some Stretching. An activity doesn’t have to be cardio to be beneficial. Keep your muscle limber by standing and doing some side stretches every couple hours. Rotate your shoulders and legs to avoid stiffness.

Start a Work Walking Group. Chances are that you’re not the only one who needs a little more exercise. Encourage coworkers to join you on pre-work or lunchtime walks. You can catch up on office gossip and get your steps in. Schedule walks two times a week.

Stay Moving at Home

If you’re the type to plop on the couch after dinner and watch an hour or two of must-see TV, then you need to change your habits to stay healthier.

Keep a clean house. Sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, vacuuming the bedroom, and putting away laundry all require you to keep moving. The end results of a sparkling clean home is just a little extra perk.

Play with your kids (or dog). This is a situation where truly everyone wins, and what weekends were truly made for. Round up the kids for a game of tag or throw around a baseball. If you’re kid-free, but have canine children, a rousing game of fetch will do the trick.

Go shopping! As if you need an excuse. This might not be a great idea for your wallet, but many shopping malls are at least quarter of a mile long or more. If you can’t afford to spend any money, do some window shopping and make mental notes of what you want to purchase your friends and family during this year’s holiday season.

Even if you’re stuck at your desk for eight-plus hours a day, you can make an effort to get some movement in. Pick up a fitness tracker, strap it on your wrist and count the number of steps you get a day. Aim to increase it by 50 to 100 each day until you’re regularly reaching 10,000 (or 5 miles) steps a day–and then you feel assured that, despite your desk jockey status, you’re keeping fit and active.

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