Tips for Staying Fit When You Have a Desk Job

Jul 07, 2017

Staying fit when you have an office jobEven for those of us who make it a priority to get in several workout sessions per week, having a sedentary occupation can make it a challenge to ward off the adverse health effects of sitting and physical inactivity for prolonged periods of time. Maintaining our well-being can seem like an uphill battle, since sitting for eight plus hours has been closely linked to gaining weight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, muscle degeneration, decreased range of motion, brain fog and more. To help level the playing field, try incorporating some of these suggestions that can help reverse these health hazards, and improve your overall fitness:

Put a walking strategy in place: You may have heard about the benefits of completing 10,000 steps per day numerous times, but finding a way to make it happen can seem a bit unrealistic.  A solution that seems to work surprisingly well: using an activity tracker like FitBit, Moov Now or another top-rated fitness band. Even initial skeptics tend to find that using one makes working toward a daily fitness goal far more satisfying and motivating. Some of these trackers even have prompts that tell you when to move, making it that much easier to remember to get up from your desk when you should.

To get in more steps, consider getting off a few stops from your office and walking in if you use public transportation, or park farther away from your building if you drive. For those who work in a high-rise, try getting off the elevator a few levels down from your floor and walking up the remaining flights of stairs. When appropriate, walk over to talk to colleagues in your building instead of emailing or calling them. For some, teaming up with a co-worker to take regular walking breaks during the day can be helpful. Keeping a pair of walking shoes at your office and using your lunch break to get moving is another option.

Get your workout in early: When you consider the many potential demands on your time during the late afternoon/evening hours, setting your alarm a little earlier each day to reset your natural clock so you can work out before getting to the office can make a lot of sense. It’s just too easy to get dissuaded from your workout when your kids need dinner, colleagues want to hit up happy hour or you’ve been asked to attend a last-minute event by your boss. True, some people simply prefer to work out later in the day, have a favorite group exercise class scheduled in the evenings or another sold reason to stick to their p.m. routine. But if you find that you’re skipping your evening workouts because you’re getting sidetracked or feel too tired, it might be time to make the switch.

Keep yourself hydrated: Studies have repeatedly shown that drinking approximately 8-10 glasses of water each day promotes weight loss – enabling you to burn more calories and check uncontrolled hunger. It also aids in flushing toxins from your body. Since guzzling down glass after glass of water can get tedious, try adding in slices of lemons, limes, oranges or another fruit (e.g. raspberries) or break the monotony with sparkling water now and then. To learn more about the link between water and your weight, visit

Do some mini workouts at your desk: While these won’t replace your regular weight training, calisthenics or yoga routine, they can help you burn more calories and strengthen and tone your muscles:

  • Isometrics for your abs: This simple one is great during long meetings or while you’re doing monotonous tasks on your computer. Just contract your core muscles tightly for 5-10 seconds (or work up to a minute if you like) and release. Do about 15 reps.
  • Desk swivel: If you have a swivel chair, this one effectively targets your obliques. Sit up straight on your chair, hold the edge of your desk with your thumb and fingers, and then use your core muscles to move the chair from side to side. Plan to do about 15 of these.
  • Raising the roof: March in place and push your arms toward the ceiling, palms facing up and hands flexed back with your thumbs close to your shoulder. Do about 20 arm raises while marching. For more muscle strengthening benefits, hold water bottles in your hands.
  • Modified wall push-up: Begin one or two feet from a wall, then lean forward until your palms are against it, keeping your arms straight and parallel to the floor. Then bend your elbows, bringing your body toward the wall. Hold for a few seconds, then push back to straighten your arms. Do approximately 12-15 reps.
  • Seated leg raise: Looking for an exercise you can do inconspicuously? Try this one: sit slightly forward from your backrest and lift one or both legs and hold for 5-10 seconds. Relax and repeat about 15 times, alternating legs if you’re doing them one at a time.
  • Do some squats: Most of us are familiar with this one. Consider getting some in during your workday.
  • Add in hamstring curls: Standing behind your chair, bend your arms at the elbow. Kick one foot back to aim for your rear while straightening your arms. Your hands should go down when your foot goes up. Go for 20 reps.
  • Seated spinal twist: A wonderful way to release tension, this stretch feels so good you may find yourself doing it throughout the day. Sit sideways on your chair with shoulders back and perpendicular to the back of the chair. Sitting up straight, keep your feet planted on the ground and place your hands on the back of the chair. Then use your arm to twist toward the chair. Take about 10 breaths. Alternate on the other side of your chair. Looking for more ways to loosen up your muscles, prevent and relieve pain and enhance your flexibility in the office? Check out more stretches you can do at your desk.

And of course, don’t overlook the major role your diet plays in your overall well-being. Although in recent years many workplaces have done a commendable job of making healthy snack choices readily available, a stressful day can easily lower your resistance to calorie-laden, high-sugar or high-sodium processed foods at the vending machine and throughout the office. To counter this, keep healthy snacks near your desk such as apple slices, yogurt, instant oatmeal, small packets of nuts and/or vegetables such as baby carrots or bell pepper slices. If your office doesn’t offer many healthy options, just take a few minutes in the evenings at home to prepare or pack them.

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