Health

How to Exercise at Work

Ways to stay healthy (and what to avoid doing)

Everyone should know by now that sitting is the new smoking.

People who sit a lot are far more prone to lifestyle illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. That’s bad news for those of us who spend the bulk of our workday seated in a chair behind a desk or a counter.

So what’s a smart person to do? The answer is exercise during the day — and for a lot of us that means finding a way to exercise at our desks.

Here’s a simple list of even exercises that are best done on your own time, away from work, and another seven that are fine to do in the office.

Generally speaking, this can be awkward. And most of what experts recommend are things people just aren’t going to do, including replacing your desk chair with an exercise ball. It may help with your core but not with the boss.

Here’s a simple list of seven exercises that are best done on your own time, away from work, and another seven that are just fine to do in the office. Just remember, though, that you need to take a five-minute movement break every hour, or face the grim reaper far too early.

Exercises best done away from the office: 

  • Marching in place with your arms pumping up and down. Really? Not only is this boring, but you might look like one of the Munchkin soldiers from the “Wizard of Oz.”
  • Doing squats. What can we say? In the workplace this is just … awkward.
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  • Fidgeting. An actual suggestion from National Public Radio, this makes you look like you have a nervous tick or the ‘Jimmy Legs’ that afflicted Kramer on a “Seinfeld” episode.
  • Wandering around the office. Short walks are good. But looking as if you’re wasting time, annoying other workers, or are just plain lost is just plain bad.
  • Fist pumping. This, or the “Saturday Night Fever variation with a pointed finger, looks like you should be wearing a giant “We’re No. 1” foam finger. It’s way too high school to be cool.
  • Arm flapping. It’s an actual suggestion from a site called Deskercise, but it’s not recommended unless you want to audition for “March of the Penguins.”
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  • Leaning against the wall. This comes in variations, such as leaning with one arm and doing sideways push ups, or facing the wall and pushing against it with both arms. Another suggestion is to back against the wall and slide up and down. In all cases, you may look as if you’ve had way too much Red Bull.

Exercises you can do at work, with a little care and discretion: 

  • Stretching. There are lots of ways to do this — pulling your shoulders back, grabbing a knee and pulling up, stretching your arms out in front of you, etc. At worst it looks athletic. At best it looks darn sexy.
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  • Walking and talking. Socrates was the guy who invented this. He loved to talk philosophy while strolling with his students. When you’re on the phone, stand and walk back and forth. It’s smart.
  • Using the stairs. Climb them instead of using the elevator — unless you’re on the 27th floor. Otherwise, just go and trot up and down a few flights, if you have access. People will think you’re going somewhere. Maybe you are.
  • Doing isometrics. This is a “secret exercise” other people don’t really notice. Pushing your palms together or clasp your hands and pull apart, for example. It looks like stretching.
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  • Moving your legs. Without calling attention to yourself, raise your legs under the desk and hold them up or move them in circles. You can also rotate your ankles and push up on the balls of your feet. It’s the same exercises you do on an airline to prevent blood clots.
  • Sitting on the edge of your chair. This is a two-parter. If you actually sit on the edge of your chair, your posture and core strength will improve. But if you lift yourself just slightly with your arms, while looking at the screen, not only is it great exercise — it makes you look fantastically engaged in your work.
  • Dancing. Sure, this can be risky. But if you keep it subtle and don’t flap your arms around, a little swaying in place to an hourly three-minute video with taste and style can make you the coolest looking person in the office, and keep you healthy.

Check out the workout blooper reel!

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