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10 Ways to Move More at Work

Updated on August 6, 2014

How to Add Movement to Your Work Day

Finding ways to move more during the work day is critical for those who spend hours sitting at the computer or desk either in the office or at home. This sedentary lifestyle from increased desk work is proving to be very unhealthy.The increased rates of obese and overweight adults along with age-related diseases decrease one's overall life expectancy.

Moving and exercising may be key to our longevity. Researchers are finding that "adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals."

Start off by answering several questions about the number of hours spent online a day, the number of inactive hours and the amount of snacking and eating in front of the computer. There are no right answers to the questions. They are just questions to get you thinking.

To make it easier to find ways to add movement into a work day, this lens contains many different ways to move more at work, some which cost nothing by time to implement like going for a walk or watching an online exercise video and others which are more expensive like getting a standing work desk or a treadmill desk. In the long run these ways of adding movement are way less expensive than the cost of living with a chronic disease.

For those interested in learning more about moving more at work see the lunch time seminar that I gave on Move it More, Especially When Teaching Online for @One in the Fall of 2013.

Walking Meeting by bibendum84. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Moving is Key to Longevity

A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity of aging-related disease and premature death.

Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself.

Researchers King's College, London

Journal Archives of Internal Medicine

Download an Exercise App

Download one of these exercise apps to your phone and you'll always have exercises available at your fingertips.

Question - Number of Hours Online

How many hours do you spend online each day (work and non work)?

See results

Question - Moving Each Day

How many hours do you spend moving (exercise, physical activity) each day?

See results

Question - Eating While Working

Do you eat or snack while working at the computer?

See results

10 Ways to Add Movement to a Work Day

Ten ways that you can add more movement, or move it more, during your work day.

  1. Schedule periodic breaks during the day by setting a timer.
  2. Participate in activity breaks or Instant Recess® at work, at meetings and at conferences.
  3. Use a wireless headset so you can stand while on the phone.
  4. Track your daily steps with a pedometer.
  5. Walk everywhere and anytime you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park the car at a distance and walk into work.
  6. Keep and use some hand weights in the office.
  7. Have easily accessible exercise clips or video clips available as bookmarked favorites on your computer or as a readily available DVD.
  8. Change your desk chair to a ergonomic, stability ball.
  9. Change your desk to a standing desk or a treadmill desk.
  10. Encourage walking or standing meetings in place of sit down ones.

Move it More Webinar

View the recorded webinar that I gave in Fall 2013 to get you moving move. It was inspired by this information researched for this page.

Dr. Toni Yancey on Working out at Work

Dr. Toni Yancey, author of "Instant Recess", explains the health benefits of working out at work using different techniques.

Choose a Possible Activity

Getting people to change their behavior requires making a commitment to change. Pick one of these activities that you are most likely to incorporate into your work day.

If there is something else, add it in the comments. If there is more than one, pick the first one and add the others in the comments.

Which of these activities are you most likely to incorporate into your work day?

See results

Desk Timers

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Use a Timer for Break Reminders

One of the easiest ways to remind yourself to take a break is to get a kitchen timer that you like and put it on the desk. Get into the habit of setting it to take stretch breaks.

This type of reminder can be very helpful for people who get so engrossed in what they are doing on the computer that they forget to get up and move.

Ideally you should be moving at least every hour. Pick an interval that works 20 - 30 minutes. When the alarm goes off, stand up, stretch. Walk to the bathroom, up and down the hallway or stairs or even outside around the block. Whatever gets you moving.

The cute Penguin Kitchen Timer is available on Amazon

Timers for the Desk

CDN TM15 Extra Big Digit Kitchen Timer, 1, White
CDN TM15 Extra Big Digit Kitchen Timer, 1, White
The extra large timer will make it easier for you to see.
Kikkerland Penguin Kitchen Timer
Kikkerland Penguin Kitchen Timer
Silly timers, like the penguin (or the Kidderland owlet) may keep you smiling as you are reminded to move more.

Exercise Work Breaks

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Make Work Breaks into Activity Breaks

If Dr. Tony Yancey has her way, everyone would be taking regular 10 minute exercise breaks during the day to improve health and productivity.

Studies have shown that a little exercise in the afternoon increases the likelihood that people will get even more exercise in the evening or on the weekend.

Programs like Instant Recess that promotes regular 10 minute exercise breaks can be are easily incorporated into school, work, and community life.

These activity breaks are being more in the work settings, by employers who are recognizing the benefits of exercise on productivity in their employees.

Instant Recess available on Amazon

Our Bodies Shutdown with Too Much Sitting

We just aren't really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time.

When we do that, our body just goes into shutdown.

Dr. Tony Yancey

Instant Recess

Instant Recess and Lift Off

Listen to Dr. Toni Yancey describe the intervention, Instant Recess and Lift Off, an innovative program to provide physical activity breaks to people at work.

Instant Recess on Amazon

Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time
Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time
Read Dr. Tony Yancey's Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time to find out how you can build in activity at work, at school, at churches and other events.

Benefits of Instant Recess

Dr. Yancey's research shows adding 10-minute Recess breaks in the day:

  1. Helps control employees' weight
  2. Prevent depression, diabetes, heart disease and cancer
  3. Recess Breaks can improve employee productivity and morale
  4. Breaks can also decrease injuries and absenteeism

Instant Recess Video Breaks

Wireless Headset

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Wear a Wireless Headset

If you use the telephone a lot, need to dictate or record (I record lectures), having a wireless headset helps you to be more mobile.

A hands-free set gives you roaming space, so you can stand up and walk (or pace) while you are on the phone.

The good news is that standing takes more energy and burns more calories than sitting, so standing while working is much more active.

Logitech Wireless available on Amazon

Wireless Headsets on Amazon

There are so many different wireless headsets options now. Pick your favorite so you can get up and move while on the computer.

Logitech ClearChat Wireless USB Headset - Black
Logitech ClearChat Wireless USB Headset - Black
I've been happy with the Logitech regular headsets for recording lectures. It may be time to upgrade this year to a wireless version.

Office Hand Weights

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Keep Hand Weights Nearby

An easy way to get in some weight training during work breaks is to bring in a set of small hand weights or walking weights. With hand weights one can work the upper muscles, the biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Put on the walking weights for when walking around the block to increase upper body muscles while walking with the lower ones.

Watch the selected video clips for suggestions on including hand weights in desk exercises.

Neoprene hand weights available on Amazon

Hand Weights

Keep a heavier set of weights (5 to 10+ lbs) near your desk for bicep curling breaks and a lighter set of walking weights (2 to 4 lbs) to carry and use when out for a walking break.

Empower 2-Pound Pair Soft Walking Weights
Empower 2-Pound Pair Soft Walking Weights
Use the walking weights for walking breaks.

Pedometer - Step Counter

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Track Steps with a Pedometer

To be even more motivated get a pedometer and start tracking all of the steps in a day. You might find that you get in a lot of steps, or that you get in very few.

If you discover you are getting in few steps, look at ways to adjust your routes to increase walking as part of your day.

The general rule of thumb is to be walking 10000 a day which is equivalent to walking 5 miles over the course of a day. This number works for relatively healthy adults. For weight loss one may need to aim for 12,000 to 15,000 steps.

Ozeri 4x3razor Pedomiter available on Amazon

Leslie Sansone Walking Video

Start this video clip and do a quick 5 minute walk with Leslie Sansone at your desk. Do it twice for 10 minutes.

Pedometers & Activity Trackers

Ozeri 4x3razor Pocket 3D Pedometer and Activity Tracker with Bosch Tri-Axis Technology from Germany, Black
Ozeri 4x3razor Pocket 3D Pedometer and Activity Tracker with Bosch Tri-Axis Technology from Germany, Black
If you prefer using a pedometer, this one from Ozeri is a great pocket model for tracking those steps.
Fitbit Wireless Activity/Sleep Tracker, Black/Blue
Fitbit Wireless Activity/Sleep Tracker, Black/Blue
The Fitbit activity trackers have become a very popular way for people to keep track of their activity and more.

Desk Workout Videos

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Bookmark Desk Exercise Videos

An easy and inexpensive way of exercising at work is to try out several of the video clips I found from different sources around the Internet and included below or search for your own.

The office video clips range from very serious and professional to more whimsical. What these clips do have in common is encouraging viewers to get up and get moving.

Be sure to bookmark any favorites so they are readily and easily accessible.

Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle video available on demand on Amazon.

Office Workout Videos

Tips to help you take a stretch break, fit in fitness at the office from MSURehabMed, elfersp, diethealth, ASUCampusRec, fitnessedinburgh and GreenMtnFoxRun

More Exercise at Work Resources on Amazon

Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle
Office Yoga: Moderate Exercises in Your Cubicle
The Office Yoga video is available to watch on demand on Amazon, making it really easy to access at work and rejuvenate yourself in a 20 minute work break.
Fitness 9 to 5: Easy Exercises for the Working Week
Fitness 9 to 5: Easy Exercises for the Working Week
With the Fitness 9 to 5 book you will discover all kinds of additional helpful tips for including exercises in your work day.

Balance Ball Chair

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Sit on a Balance Ball

Swapping out a stationary chair for a balance ball or stationary ball can help in increasing activity levels.

The stationary balls can also help to improve core muscles and improve spine alignment, because one has to be contracting core muscles to remain upright and balancing on the ball.

The ergodynamic chair to the right is from Switzerland. It is also known as the ergo ball chair, swiss egg chair, ergonomic office chair or ErgoChair. It is an egg-shaped variation on the balance ball. The egg shaped chair was designed in Switzerland by a group of engineers, doctors and physical therapists. One key advantage is that the ErgoChair uses much less floor space than a ball chair.

The balance balls and ergo chairs are proving to be more ergonomic for improving spinal alignment.

Ergo Chair Ergonomic Ball Chair available on Amazon.

Effects of Increasing Passive Energy at Work

Researchers in a 2008 study at New York School of Bioscience found that the energy expended was 4.1 kcal/h greater while performing work sitting on a therapy ball than while sitting in an office chair.

The researchers concluded that "sitting on a therapy ball or standing rather than sitting in an office chair while performing clerical work increases passive energy expenditure."

This translates to 30 kcals / day or 600 kcals / month.

Standing Desk

Image by Joshnunn
Image by Joshnunn

Standing while Working Makes a Big Difference

Changing your desk from a sitting desk to a standing one can make a big difference when it comes to moving and activity levels.

You can purchase a standing workstation, with the models below, or get innovative and create your own standing work area, like the one to the right which just used several file cabinets.

In a Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers reported on the health and weight loss benefits of changing sitting computer time with walking and working time.

They discovered that if sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 kcal/h. Over the course of a year, if obese individuals replaced sitting time at the computer with walking computer time by just 2-3 h/day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, they could potentially loose 20-30 kg/year.

Standing Work "Desk" Area by Joahnunn

Energy Expenditures from Standing Desk

Mayo Clinic Researchers found that if sitting computer time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 kcal/h.

If obese and overweight individuals replaced 2-3 h/day sitting at the computer with walking computer time (or using a standing desk) they could lose 20-30 kg/year.

Standing Workstations

Safco Muv Adjustable-Height Desk
Safco Muv Adjustable-Height Desk
Safeco's workstation will hold all of your computer needs from the monitor to a printer.
Buddy Products Stand Up Workstation with Beveled Edge, 26.5 x 39.75 x 36.75 Inches, Gray (6461-18)
Buddy Products Stand Up Workstation with Beveled Edge, 26.5 x 39.75 x 36.75 Inches, Gray (6461-18)
For those who prefer lighter work environments, this workstation comes in a clean white.

Treadmill Desk

Available from Amazon
Available from Amazon

Use a Treadmill Desk for Ultimate Movement at Work

The ultimate way to increase movement while working would be to turn one's desk into a treadmill desk.

Working on a treadmill might be easier for those needing to do a lot of reading or those who can dictate messages, but as can be seen with the TrekDesk there is plenty of space to work while you work out.

Even just using the treadmill for a few hours a day instead of sitting can make a big impact over the course of a year as see in the research on shifting from sitting to walking above.

Put on a pair of walking or running shoes, hop on your desk and keep walking or running while you work.

TrekDesk Treadmill Desk available on Amazon

Treadmill Desk and Walkstations

LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk
LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk
This would be my choice of a Treadmill desk, if money were no object.

Encourage Walking Meetings

Image by bibendum84
Image by bibendum84

Organize Working Walking Meetings

Walking meetings are a great way to get business done and exercise at the same time. As a way to encourage employees health and fitness, some companies are starting to include walking meetings on treadmills in a special room or getting outside.

Word is that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is partial to taking walks in the wood around Palo Alto, an event reserved for family and close friends, but sometime for potential Facebook employees.

Walking meetings are not new. President Reagan can be seen pictured in many walking meetings like with Margaret Thatcher, a much younger Senator John McCain and even Pope John Paul II.

Walking meetings can be informal breaks or more organized meetings with formal agenda and a tape recorder to keep track of the conversations and the ideas.

See Mambowalks' article on Walking Meetings: Doing Business Like Zuckerman for even more ideas.

Walking Meeting by bibendum84

Bonus Tip: Practice Mindful Eating

Being more Mindful about Eating is also Key

The potential for mindless eating is greater for those who eat their meals in front of a computer or laptop while working, particularly at home. Mindlessly munching large amounts of food can be very easy to do when working on a computer at home.

Ways to be more mindful about eating include:

  • 1. Limit eating in front of the computer or while on the laptop.
  • 2. Practice Mindful Eating techniques.
  • 3, Be fully aware of the foods you are eating when eating.
It is really important to not eat meals in front of the computer. Taking breaks to get away from the computer to eat can help promote more mindful eating.

Mindful Eating Books

My favorite Mindful Eating Books

Which of these ideas might you use to move more during your work day?


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