Five Ways to Keep Moving at the Office

Woman stretching at her desk

Many of us are required to sit for 6 to 8 (or more) hours a day. With sedentary jobs, reasons to move naturally about the office are hard to come by. Most of us can't just get up and do 50 jumping jacks without some level of questioning from co-workers. Making excuses to get up and move can be uncomfortable. Yet, for anyone who has sat in a leather chair staring at a screen for more than 5 hours, knows that you will eventually need a break.

Where I work, I'm in an open office with a table of computers. I sit right next to 3 co-workers (my right my left and in front of me) and right across from two others. Privacy at work doesn't really exist. Therefore, my downward dog stretch or midair upper cuts would not go unnoticed without unwanted attention. I'm not sure that I can put on the persona of "funny carefree gal" at this job. If I were, I might be fine breaking the upstairs quiet for some heavy breathing and stretching or maybe pacing around the room. For now, I am like many others who feel a little trapped by the desk during a work day.

However, I need to move. If I don't, I find that it disrupts my sleep at night. To combat this, a few of us at work take morning walk breaks, where we peruse the streets in the small town where we work.

It's good to give your body a break from constant sitting. As humans, we are not meant to sit for such long hours. This is why we have intermissions during concerts and plays. This is also why the seventh inning stretch was invented (well that, and because Americans often feel the urge to sing the national anthem at any large event). We have customary situations, during a church Mass or a wedding, etc., in which we are all allowed to stretch our legs.

By committing to a daily exercise routine, we can improve not only our overall health but our sleep quality, just by diversifying movement. In an article titled, "Move more, sleep more (and better)" it's stated that "exercise is an excellent remedy for sleep problems."

Unfortunately, even our efforts to work-out once a day may not be enough to negate the effects of being desk-bound. According to an article on NPR, "researchers are beginning to suspect that even if you engage in regular exercise daily, it may not be enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting during the rest of the day". Scary health risks such as heart disease, lowered metabolism, and unfavorable blood sugar levels are some of the reported consequences of stationary life style.

However, we do not have to submit to the sluggish pull of our desk jobs. There are ways in which we can move around the office without making a fool of ourselves. At the same time, changing the way we sleep and the way we live.

Here are five ways to keep moving (even at the office):

  1. Walk to a Desk or Office: Here is a perfect reason to move—no awkward excuses for doing stretches or calisthenics near your desk at random intervals. Rather than email chats or calling, walking across the room to a co-worker's office can give you a chance to move and stretch your legs.
  2. Move Every Hour: Set an alarm on your phone (a non-annoying or disruptive one) to remind you to stand up. Continue working from your desk while standing up if you need to. Many people can't type while standing for long, but this provides a nice way to break up the day with a bit of movement.
  3. Take a walk on your morning break or at lunch: It is possible to eat a little lunch while taking a light stroll.
  4. Take Frequent Water thus Consequential Bathroom breaks: If you fill up your water bottle half way each time, you will have more opportunities to stand up and fill it again. This will also make it possible to use the restroom habitually.
  5. Sit on an Exercise Ball in Place of Your Chair: You don't have to make this a permanent switch. Try using a bouncy exercise ball as a chair for few times a week. It requires different muscle usage, and it allows you to move around more, even on your bum.

If you are feeling particularly bold, then you might want to make an office meeting out of the matter. You could address the need for frequent, short movement breaks—ones in which everyone feels comfortable marching in place, wiggling around, and finding other ways to move. By discussing this with the whole office, you will feel more confident to try other movements. The support and understanding from the whole office will make it easier to commit to sitting less and moving more.