More than 86% of the American workforce has a sedentary job that entails sitting pretty much all day long—sometimes for upward of 10 hours at a time with very little intermittent movement. While our ancestors had to walk everywhere to do anything (uphill and downhill), we've become a nation of butts glued to chairs—and the resulting effect on our bodies hasn’t been pretty. The cumulative lack of physical activity throughout the workweek can quickly contribute to unwanted weight gain and changes in shape and endurance—like the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded (not to mention health complications like increased risk of stroke and diabetes). But no matter how inherently sedentary your job is, there are ways to get more movement throughout your day.
Keep scrolling for simple and effective ways to combat the effects of a sedentary desk job!
1. Get a Stand-Up Desk
According to Heidi Powell, trainer on ABC's Extreme Weight Loss, elevating your workspace can make all the difference. "Turn your desk into a stand-up desk. Not only will you burn more calories, but you will also increase mobility, avoid shortening hip flexors and hamstrings, increase lymphatic stimulation, and improve posture. This ‘no-brainer’ will also help keep your ideas fresh by increasing brain oxygenation. You can buy a desk attachment, or just use a box to bring your computer up to standing height."
Adds Ngo Okafor, celebrity trainer (Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Campbell), and founder of fitness app FitMatch, "When we sit, the muscles in our butt go to sleep. Standing requires the tightening of the butt muscles which protect your lower back and prevent back pain."
2. Try a Treadmill Desk
Walking while you work might be a tad annoying to your deskmates, but you'll be healthier and fitter in the long run so, give-and-take, right? Says Okafor, "A treadmill desk is one that allows you to move while you go about everyday office business, such as typing on a computer or talking on the phone. Studies show that obese, sedentary office workers burned over 100 more calories per hour when walking on a treadmill, compared to sitting. Over time, that could add up to significant weight loss."
3. Move Every Hour
"Implement mandatory three to five minutes of deliberate movement at the top of every hour," says Powell. "Get up from your desk to walk to the bathroom, the drinking fountain, or simply around the building. The change in scenery will invigorate you, and the few minutes of movement will easily add up to nearly 25 to 40 minutes of movement a day! Technically, this could count as your daily dose of cardio if you pick up the pace."
To help remind you to do this, Okafor recommends setting hourly alarms or reminders on your computer, smartphone, or watch to "get up, walk around, and do some exercises."
4. Make the Most of Your Conference Calls
Pace around while you are on phone calls," instructs Powell. "Desk-sitting while talking is unnecessary if you don’t need to be on your computer. Use your mobile device to retrieve data, if possible, while you bring your conference call outside. Keep in mind that you burn one calorie for every 20 steps—if you allow your phone calls to help increase that step count, you’ll be well on your way to burning 500 calories a day if you can achieve the recommended 10,000 steps."
Okafor suggests taking these meetings in person and outside. "Chair-less meetings are becoming quite popular as an alternative to sitting around a conference table. Imagine the number of calories that can be burned during a 30-minute meeting in which the participants walk instead of sitting. Besides burning more calories than sitting, standing or walking meetings may have other important benefits, such as increased alertness during meetings and increased creative thinking due to a change of scenery."
Not your office floors, that is. Powell explains, "Seated vacuums are an incredible exercise to tighten your core and improve posture that can be done at your desk. Sit up straight, then simply inhale to inflate your lungs completely. Exhale all of the air out, and at the bottom of the exhale, draw your belly button in and upward toward your spine. Squeeze and hold that position for as long as you can. Aim for 20-second sets to begin, working up to one-minute sets over time. Perform 10 vacuums in a row when you feel a lull in your day."
6. Breathe Some More
"Increase energy, brainpower, and overall wellness by breathing," says Powell. "A simple technique I use is this: Close your eyes, sit up straight. Take 20 deep and heavy breaths in and out while focusing on something that lifts your mood (oftentimes not work-related!). When breathing, be sure to inhale and exhale through both your mouth and nose to allow a full flow of oxygen. Twenty of these deep breaths will most definitely help refocus your brain and body."
7. Make Use of Seated Exercise Equipment
"Keep a set of dumbbells and a resistance band at your desk at all times," advises Powell. "At least twice a day, pull those babies out for just 20 reps of moves like seated overhead presses, chair squats, and seated bicep curls."