Getting moving during your work day can is a good way to help renew your focus and get your heart pumping! However, if you’re like 80% of the working population, your job is sedentary or requires only very light activity,1 so you know firsthand how difficult it is to get quality physical activity during the workday. What you may not realize is that a lack of movement during work marks a dramatic, and very recent, change in our behavior. As recently as fifty years ago, nearly 50% of jobs were physically demanding, requiring an additional 120-140 calories per day in physical activity.1 While that might not seem like much, it’s nearly enough to account for the steady weight gain that has America has seen since 1960.1
So the question becomes, how can we add in physical activity during our day—without disrupting the workflow or heading out to the gym and working up a sweat? This is where NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) comes into play. NEAT is, essentially, calories burned outside of eating, sleeping, or sports-like exercises.2 This includes simple tasks like walking, typing, performing yard work, taking out the garbage, and even fidgeting. These types of activities, if performed consciously throughout an otherwise sedentary day, can accumulate an impressive calorie burn, with some researchers estimating it’s possible to burn an additional 350 calories each day.3
In fact, recent research from the American Council on Exercise shows that “low-intensity movement interruptions are an effective means of combating sedentary behavior...[impacting] dramatic swings in HDL, triglycerides, and blood glucose.”According to ACE, significant health benefits can be seen by simply getting up once per hour and moving for five minutes, or getting up every two hours and moving for ten minutes.4 The types of activities they suggest include standing, walking and folding laundry. In other words, low-intensity and easy-to-perform activities can be simply weaved into your day.
Use the following strategies to add more movement into your workday, and you could reap significant health benefits, without breaking a sweat.
1. Park in the back of the parking lot
You know that one parking spot that’s way in the back of the parking lot? The one that’s always open because nobody wants to park that far from the door? Consider this spot reserved for you and all the extra steps it will allow you to get in over the next days, weeks, and months.
2. Take planned movement breaks at work
There’s an unlimited number of ways to do this, but here’s a few ideas to get you started. First, instead of keeping a large water bottle at your desk, use a regular sized glass. Then set an alarm on your phone to go off every 30-60 minutes to remind you to head to the kitchen and fill it up. Second, only use the bathroom furthest from your desk. Third, go to your co-workers desk and have a conversation instead of emailing them. With just these three ideas you’ll be able to easily get extra steps—multiple times per day. Bonus points if the bathroom and/or water cooler are up or down a flight of steps.
3. Have walking (or standing) meetings
If it works for everyone in the meeting, consider heading outside for a breath of fresh air while you work through the agenda. If the weather isn’t agreeable, you can also walk through the hallways. If you have to be confined to one room for a meeting, consider standing for all or part of the meeting.
4. Take a walking lunch.
If there’s a park you can walk to, grab your lunch and head over there for a quick picnic. Alternatively, just getting outside after lunch and “stretching your legs” for a few minutes can make a bigger impact than you think. Buddy up with a friend to make it more fun and to add some accountability.
5. Get a standing desk.
As more companies see the health and wellness benefits, standing desks are becoming more commonplace in workplaces across the country. Put in a request with your company. You might be surprised at how they respond.
Edited by Kari - Jenny Craig