The World Health Organization recommends that adults ages 16 to 64 get in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week — things like walking, dancing, and swimming. In reality? More than 25% of adults worldwide miss those marks.
While doing a few dedicated workouts a week can be an efficient way to get your 150 minutes of exercise, using snatches of time during your workday can add up, too.
“One of the key barriers to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for what we perceive to be a full workout, we think, why bother?” said Christina Howells, a London-based personal trainer and fitness writer. “Any amount of movement or exercise is better than none.”
Not sure how to take a workout break and still be fit to work after? Here are four suggestions.
Prepare for exercise. Not every office has showers for its employees, and almost no one wants to work next to someone who’s just come from a hard lunchtime run. Products are available to help you get ready to dive back into your workday.
Howells swears by dry shampoo. Also, shower wipes can work in a pinch after workouts.
You can also keep a pair of comfortable shoes at work so that whenever the opportunity presents itself to get in a walk, you can take advantage of it, no matter what you chose to wear on your feet to work that day.
Take movement breaks. Sure, you may sit at a desk all day, but you can seize the ample opportunities to move (and take a break).
“This may all sound very cliché, but if you’re taking the stairs, walking escalators, and walking more, you will be doing yourself a huge favour in terms of both cardiovascular health and muscular endurance,” Howells said. It can make your workplace a natural gym, too. “Why would you go to the gym to do step-ups on a stairmill or walk on the treadmill when you can make it part of your day?” she asked.
Multitask your meetings. One easy workday movement opportunity is during meetings, said Nathalie Baron, a sports scientist and coach with SCC Events, which puts on the Berlin Marathon. Unless you need to take detailed notes during a meeting or call, you can move and work, too, either by asking your one-on-one meeting partner if they want to go for a walk or by taking your call out the door with you via a smartphone and Bluetooth headset.
You can also do a lot in a small workspace. You can perform yoga poses on your office floor or in your chair, stretch, or even get in strength training exercises, such as lunges, squats, or planks, that don’t require weights other than your own body.
Keep your goals in sight. It’s easy to forget — especially if your workday gets hectic — to move. So remind yourself, Baron said. Installing “a wallpaper on your desktop or on your mobile devices that will remind you, and motivate you, to do the new behaviour” can help, she said. If you make a daily to-do list at work, put exercise on the list. “You want to put it up every day at the top of the to-do list,” she said. “That’s how you remember it every time you look at this list.”
— Jen A. Miller is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.