15 Ways to Stop Being So Sedentary at the Office


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business woman with back pain stretching in her office
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With each passing decade, fewer and fewer Americans have physically active jobs. Sedentary jobs have increased more than 80 percent since 1950, according to the American Heart Association. "It's important to be intentional about creating healthy habits and routines at the office, because we spend such a significant amount of time at work," said Tyler Spraul, head trainer at Exercise.com. These tips from personal trainers, physicians, and award-winning athletes, including their favorite fitness products for the workplace, can help workers stay active when stuck in an office.

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Walking or biking to work instead of driving is an excellent way to counteract a sedentary job. It’s easier in some cities than others, but people lucky enough to have a short commute should consider seizing this opportunity, said Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center.

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If you do drive to work, and security isn't an issue, park at the farthest end of the office parking lot, suggests Robert Herbst, a personal trainer, coach, and award-winning power lifter. Once you're at work, health and fitness experts recommend taking the stairs rather than the elevator.

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Nearly every expert seems to offer this bit of advice: Create activity reminders. Whether on a smartphone or a fitness tracker, some sort of alert should remind you to move around. "It's easy to be so focused (or distracted) at work that you lose track of time," Exercise.com's Tyler Spraul said. Dr. Caroline Apovian recommends setting hourly alarms for a lap around the office, or engaging in an activity such as walking up and down steps while carrying something.

colleagues walking and discussing business matters on the move
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Another popular tip from trainers across the country: Try walking meetings. In other words, walk and talk rather than sitting in a conference room. This works best for smaller meetings that involve two to three people at most. "When I have one-to-one meetings with my subordinates, it's always a walking meeting," said Pete Abilla, founder of Find Tutors Near Me, a small business based in Utah. "We walk around the office and, if it's nice outside, we go for a walk."

two bookshop managers working on laptop
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Standing up while making phone calls is one little way to increase activity. And instead of emailing colleagues, walk over and have a conversation. "Not only will you get fitter, but the personal touch is often better," Robert Herbst said.

entrance to the male and female toilet
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This suggestion comes from Katy Fraggos, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of the fitness studio Perspirology in New Jersey: If you're trying to squeeze every bit of activity out the day that you can, answer nature's call at the bathroom farthest from your desk — or even a bathroom on another floor.

young intelligent woman standing in office space at her desk with laptop
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What better way to fight the problems that come from sitting all day than by standing up? Doctors, personal trainers, and others recommend using a standing desk if possible. "I recommend switching it up at regular intervals. You can start out with shorter amounts of time standing up, but work on increasing your standing time as you get used to it," said Tyler Spraul of Exercise.com. The desks can be pricey, but numerous models can be found on Amazon for less than $200.

Bouncy Bands for Standard Chairs
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Initially created for kids, Bouncy Bands (starting at $14) have also become popular among adults, company CEO Scott Ertl said. This product attaches to an office chair or desk and allows for bouncing or stretching the legs throughout the day while working.

Versa 8 Resistance Band
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The Versa 8 band (around $10) is another conveniently small piece of equipment that can increase physical activity at work. Recommended by Lisa Snow, a New York-based certified personal trainer and president of On the Mend Customized Fitness and Massage, the bands are used to perform a variety of upper-body exercises. "This tiny and lightweight piece of equipment allows for an amazing range of arm, shoulder, and ab exercises," Snow said. "And they can easily fit in a desk drawer."

businessman sitting on blue pilates ball while working on computer in office
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Sitting on an exercise ball rather than a stiff office chair keeps your core and legs activated throughout the day. Some companies even make balance-ball chairs specifically for desks, such as the Gaiam Balance Ball Chair (about $60 on Amazon). Power lifter Robert Herbst suggests slowly integrating the ball chair into your daily routine if you're not used to it. "Otherwise you'll get sore and be subject to overuse injuries early on."

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Rethink how you use your spare time at the office. While working long hours at a software startup and running the website Muscle Class, Anthony Myers said, "I have a personal goal to walk two miles per day as tracked by my iPhone. So on my two 15-minute breaks, I get out of the office and go for a nice long walk." He also suggested using lunchtime to visit the gym at least once a week, then eating lunch at your desk while working.

Young man and woman working at modern office doing glute squeezes
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One of the easiest exercises to do at work is a glute squeeze, said Grace Derocha, a certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. All it involves is squeezing the buttocks, holding that position for five to 10 seconds, releasing, and repeating.

young businesswoman doing yoga while working at the desk
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Health coach Grace Derocha also recommended "desk-ups" to increase arm strength. These involve placing both hands on a desk, moving your feet back to lean at a 45-degree angle, and pushing off with as much force as possible. She suggests 10 to 12 reps.

businessman doing chair squats exercise in office
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Here's another in-office exercise, from Stephen Mason, an exercise physiologist. Chair squats involve simply standing up and sitting down in a chair in sets of 10 to 20 reps. He suggests trying to do one to three sets every hour.

business man stretching his knees while in chair in office
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This exercise suggested by trainer Katy Fraggos doesn't even require getting up out of a chair: Every 15 minutes, do 20 to 50 double-leg knee lifts. Keep your back straight and abdominals engaged to lift the knees in a pulsing action.

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