5 ways to add more movement into your workday (even with a desk job)

Ghina Fahs
January 2, 2023
5 ways to add more movement into your workday (even with a desk job)
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Let’s face it: most of us are spending too much of our time sitting down—and while many factors come into play here, a big chunk of it is work-related. Many professional jobs require us to be seated for hours on end, usually behind a screen, and no one seems to be talking enough about how detrimental that is to our health. In fact, having a sedentary lifestyle is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide—surely, a solution to this deserves more of our attention.

Leading a highly inactive lifestyle comes with a myriad of risks including diabetes, obesity, back problems, changes in metabolism, and much more—and frankly, the way we’ve been working for decades is only adding insult to injury. This study from 2017 even coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”—and no, standing desks are not enough. We need to get moving.

No matter how much you enjoy the nature of the work that you do, if your habits around it are costing you your health, something needs to change. The good news is, we’ve been seeing a lot more flexibility in the workplace: hybrid, remote and asynchronous working conditions are only becoming more normalized, and what comes with that is less rigidity around how, when, and where we get to do our work.

Make no mistake, though; if you’re working remotely, but still find yourself spending all day seated on your couch, dining table, home office, or your favorite coffee shop, you’re still not doing yourself any favors if you’re not intentionally and consciously adding movement into your day. Whether it’s a few flights of stairs or a couple of jumping jacks between calls, your body needs it all, and will thank you.

Here are 5 purposeful, fun, and almost effortless ways to fit more physical activity into your workday, starting now!

1. Take your meetings on the move

If you work remotely and attend meetings via video conference, take your next call while going for a walk in your neighborhood or on a treadmill, whatever is accessible to you. Similarly, if your meetings take place at the office, encourage your colleagues to try something different and take them out for a “walking meeting.”

A walking conversation is so much more natural and distraction-free than most other types of meetings, and walking in general is one of the healthiest (and easiest) habits you can add to your day. The increased blood flow that you get from a walk is not only great for your physical health, but it can also increase creativity by 81-100%. In fact, some of the greatest minds who ever lived—like Beethoven, Charles Dickens, and Steve Jobs—regularly went on walks, and it was on those walks that some of their most creative ideas came to them.

2. Use the habit stacking method to get your blood flowing

Habit stacking is a phrase that was pioneered by James Clear, author of the New York Times best-seller Atomic Habits. Habit stacking is as simple as it sounds. All you need to do is identify a current behavior you already do each day and then stack your new desired habit on top. This is a strategic way to incorporate more healthy behaviors and habits into your life without disrupting your routine. The reason habit stacking is so effective is that with this method, you work smarter, not harder. It just takes intention and awareness.

Here are some examples:

  • While your daily morning coffee is brewing, do countertop push-ups.
  • While you brush your teeth, walk in place.
  • Do a wall sit while making your to-do list for the day.
  • Every time you go to use the restroom, do some standing stretches.
  • Every time you get back to your workspace, do some tricep dips.

Choose the number of reps according to your abilities.

3. Shake it off by the hour

Make sure you don’t sit for more than an hour at a time by setting an hourly reminder to get up off your seat. Stand up and move around the space you’re in, go make a cup of coffee, do some jumping jacks, walk or jog in place, or simply do a little dance and shake your entire body, from your head to your hands to your legs!

Lots of different smartwatches have automatic reminders to stand up every hour, but if smartwatches aren’t your thing, you can find mobile apps that serve the same purpose, such as Stand Up! on the Apple app store or Break Reminder on Google Play. Another great option is to have the reminder on your computer or laptop. For this, you can try Awareness, a computer app that’s available to download on both Windows and Mac.

4. Chair yoga

You hardly need to get out of your seat for this one! Making a habit of incorporating some simple yoga stretches while you’re seated in your workspace can be highly effective at helping to mitigate the back pain and neck pain that comes along with inactive desk jobs.

Not only that, the benefits of yoga are abundant and undeniable—even just a little bit can go a long way. Dr. Natalie Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor briefly summarizes just a few of the many benefits yoga can offer: “regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” adding that strengthening awareness of the mind and body “can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.”

If you’re looking for a simple but effective way to increase productivity and get an energy boost when that mid-day crash starts to creep up on you, then this practice is for you!

Why not try one right now? Below is a simple 6-minute sequence you can follow along, or if you prefer to read, check out this awesome guide with GIFs and written instructions to help you safely move through every stretch and yoga pose.

5. Choose the active option

Throughout every workday, you’ll most likely be faced with some options to move more. For instance, take the stairs or the elevator, catch a cab or to walk, order in or pick up your lunch, and so on. How often do you mindlessly take the path of least effort?

Dr. Mark Williamson, the director of Action for Happiness was noted saying, “autopilot has gone from being an evolutionary protection mechanism that stopped our brains [from] overloading, to our default mode of operating whereby we sleepwalk into our choices.”

As humans in a highly automated, routined society, we tend to function on autopilot the majority of the time. If we go about our days with little intention around our physical movement, we’re likely to pick the easiest option when faced with these choices. It’s just how we’re wired. But how many of us genuinely want to sleepwalk into our choices?

Choosing the active option requires only two things: getting comfortable with delayed gratification, and inviting more awareness and intention around the choices that you make when you’re given these options. If you have the conscious intention to keep your body moving throughout the day, you’re more likely to take the stairs instead of the elevator. And if you do this enough times, it will become as effortless as an unconscious habit.

Images sourced from pexels.com

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