What kind of exercises can I do at work?

During the “good old days,” people worked in jobs requiring strenuous physical activity. But with today’s technology, many people are physically inactive. Leaving early in the morning before daylight and returning home after dark leaves very little time for a workout. Finding a way to fit in fitness at work can make a tremendous difference in your health. A self-evaluation is the first step to getting fit–you need to become aware of opportunities for physical activity. The following are some questions to ask yourself: – How do you travel to work? How early do you get there? Can you stay a few minutes later each day? – How much time do you spend at a desk? At a computer? On your feet? – Do you have breaks? How long are they? – How much time do you have for lunch? How much time does it really take to eat lunch? – Can you step out of the workplace and breathe fresh air during your workday? No matter what the answers are to the above questions, there are ways to work fitness into the workday.


The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity indicates that 30 minutes of moderate daily activity is the only requirement needed for health-related fitness. One good way to get some of this activity in is by altering the way you travel to work: – Park and walk: Park your car one mile from your work building and walk the rest of the way or park in the farthest spot in the parking lot from the entrance to your building. – Bus stops: Get off the bus several stops early and walk the rest of the way. – Walk before work: Before entering your building, walk around the block. A city block is slightly less than half a mile. – Stay later: Will leaving work later make a difference in your after-work schedule? Can you take a few minutes to walk the halls of the building? This exercise time may help you relieve stress at the end of the workday, revive your energy level, or prepare yourself for driving in traffic. It may help you to change roles from career person to parent, allowing you time for yourself before picking up the kids at the day-care center or arriving at home. The 30 minutes of physical activity can be spread out throughout the day. A 10-minute walk before work, a 10-minute walk at lunch, and a 10-minute walk after work adds up to fulfilling the daily requirement.


Working for eight straight hours without some kind of physical activity is not emotionally, mentally, or physically beneficial. If possible, take at least two 15-minute breaks to walk or perform stretching exercises. Exercising for five of the 15 minutes will reenergize you and add minutes to your fitness program. If you work at a computer, get up every hour and do some type of physical activity. When talking on the telephone, stand up and pace. If you have a long cord, a cordless phone, or a headset, move away from your workstation and stretch while you’re talking. If you can, visit people instead of calling them on the phone, take longer routes to the restroom or copy machine, or take the stairs instead of an elevator. Lunchtime is a great opportunity for physical activity. Parking garages and shopping malls provide a year-round place for lunchtime walks because they’re protected from the weather. Also, you can get in some “hill work” along with your walk in a parking garage. Climbing stairs at your building, parking garage, or mall will provide a higher level of intensity to your workout. Eight trips up and down one flight of stairs provide an excellent lunchtime workout. Alternating walking, garage walking, and stair climbing adds variety and difficulty to the workout.


You can work exercises into your day even at your workstation. The following are stretching and strength exercises designed for sitting at a desk: – Interlace your fingers above your head with palms facing upward. Push your arms slightly backward and upward. Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds. – Sit with your arms hanging loosely at your side. Turn your head to one side, then the other. Hold for five seconds each side. Repeat one to three times. – Sit with your fingers interlaced behind your head, elbows straight out to sides. Pull shoulders blades together to create tension through upper back and shoulder blades. Hold five seconds and release. Repeat one to three times. – Interlace your fingers and turn palms out. Extend arms in front at shoulder level. Hold for 20-30 seconds, relax, and repeat. – Gently squeeze a tennis ball or other rubber ball that offers resistance. Repeat several times. – Slip a heavy-duty rubber band over the fingers of both hands but not the thumbs. Place your hands together, palms facing each other. The rubber band should not be over the knuckles. Keep your elbows at your side; slowly pull your hands apart until the rubber band will not stretch any further. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat four to eight times. – Place a large rubber band around one of the legs of your chair. Slip one foot into the rubber band. Position the rubber band in front of the chair at ankle height. Slowly extend your lower leg upward, until the rubber band is stretched to its limit. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat four to eight times each leg.