8 ways to work exercise into your work day

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Something as simple as sitting on a fitness ball can help stengthen your core and burn calories while doing work at your desk. | File Photo

With many employers expecting their employees to do more with less, it seems like there is never enough time in the day.

Frequently employees endure a long commute to the office and pin themselves to their office chairs and remain there for the entirety of their eight-hour workday.

Dr. David X. Marquez, assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said sitting at your desk for eight hours straight increases your risk of major diseases even if you exercise for 30 minutes to an hour a day.

“Get up and go for a walk,” Marquez said. “See your colleagues, walk the hall or go down a couple flights of stairs. It gets you moving and you don’t lose too much time.”

Marquez and several other experts offered up a few work-day exercises that will be beneficial to members of the time-crunched workforce.

1. Sit on a fitness ball

“Sitting on [a fitness ball] instead of a desk chair for short amounts of time works your core muscles without having to leave your desk,” Marquez said.

2. Jumping jacks and push-ups

“These old school things are viable options,” Marquez said, “but there aren’t a whole lot of people that are going to do them.” Marquez cautioned that push-ups and jumping jacks can cause you to work up a sweat.

3. Desk Yoga

“[Desk Yoga] is more about preventing carpel tunnel and neck tension,” said Susi May, fitness director for FitSugar, located in California.

4. Drink plenty of water

“Drink a lot of water so you force yourself to get up and go to the bathroom,” May said.

5. Workout with co-workers

“Schedule lunchtime workouts with co-workers,” May said. “It creates team building.” Even going for a walk as a group promotes a healthy lifestyle and can create a bonding experience.

6. Commute with a purpose

“Get off two spots earlier on the bus or the train,” May said. “It’s a great way to wakeup.” Other suggestions to boost your energy and metabolism while en route to work are taking the stairs to the office, walking to work or riding your bike.

7. Strength exercises at the desk

“Keep resistance bands at your desk and do a strength routine when you have a break,” suggested Ashley Pettit, a Chicago-based certified personal trainer.

8. Elbow curls

“Sit upright in your chair,” said Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist at American Council on Exercise. “Raise your arms up to shoulder height and bend your elbows, touching your knuckles to your temples. As you inhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding for 1-2 seconds. As you exhale, draw your elbows towards one another, keeping your knuckles in contact with your temples at all times.”

Marquez says that research has long focused on cardiovascular activities that elevated heart rates for 30 minutes at a time.

Today, that may be changing.

“New data suggests doing [cardiovascular] activities for 10 minutes at a time, for three, 10 minute bouts broken up during the day, you can get similar health benefits,” Marquez said.

No matter how much time you have to workout, the biggest challenge is to just get started.

“If we could get everybody to do any of these,” Marquez said, “health wise, as a country I think we would be much better off.”

Follow Matthew Schwerha on Twitter @MatthewSchwerha