Fitness in the Office
© Joan Price. May not be reprinted without permission.
How can you find time for exercise when your week is filled with deadlines, phone calls, reports, meetings, and coping with one rush job after another? If you think you don't have time to exercise, you don't have time not to! You'll work more productively, decrease emotional stress and muscle tension, and have more energy all day if you take minutes of exercise many times during your day.
Notice I said minutes of exercise -- not hours, not even half-hours. The health benefits of exercise kick in when you accumulate 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, even in little bursts of a few minutes at a time, gathered over the course of the day. For weight management, for example, total calories burned per week count more than the length or the type of any one exercise session.
Research shows that exercise in a number of short sessions enhances health, keeps the heart and lungs strong, helps with weight loss, and decreases the risk of premature death and a multitude of lifestyle diseases. No, you won't get the same cardiovascular training effects as an hour's step class. Compared to not exercising, though, you'll feel peppier immediately and reap big benefits long-term.
When I'm on a book or article deadline and stuck at my desk, I like to find ways I can take little activity breaks as often as possible. I live in a rural area, where walking to my mailbox and back takes 10 invigorating minutes. Or I practice a line dance, use my home rower, or do abdominal crunches. If I lived in the city, I'd walk briskly around the block. If I had stairs, I'd climb them. Which of these strategies would work for you?
- Stand. Get out of your chair often, at least every hour. You'll feel less tired and your brain will work better. Work standing up for 5 to 10 minutes (while reading a draft, for example). You'll burn 25 percent more calories than sitting down.
- Pace. If you can pace while you talk on the phone or brainstorm, you'll burn almost 4 times as many calories as you will sitting.
- Climb. A flight of stairs is a foot-operated cardio machine! A 150-pound person burns 17.5 calories per minute walking up stairs -- compared to 1.7 typing at the computer!
- Phone Push-Ups. Turn on the speaker phone or don your headset and do push-ups against the desk while you wait for the person you're calling to come to the phone. (Be careful of heavy breathing when you introduce yourself.)
- Muscle Up. Use down times when you're waiting for a printing file for strength training at your desk with Dyna-Bands: latex exercise-weight resistance bands (see www.joanprice.com, click "cool tools" for more info). In two minutes, you can work one muscle group and its opposing muscles: chest and back, front and back of upper arm, front and back of thigh, for example. You don't have to do the whole body at once.
- Chest and Shoulder Stretch. A problem with desk work is that almost all your work is done in front of you. Sitting in your chair, reach both arms back as far as you can, arching your back. If your backrest permits, clasp your hands behind the chair to intensify the stretch. This stretch will release tension and make you feel better. It takes no extra time, because you can continue to read the computer screen while you stretch.
- Health Club Hit. You may think that a whirlwind visit to a health club is worse than no visit at all, but even if you only have time to work out for 15 minutes, that's 75 minutes a week more exercise than you're getting now.
Short sessions --10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, and so on, adding up to 30 to 60 minutes a day -- can be your solution to the problem of not finding time to exercise.
Joan's book, The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book, includes more than 300 exercises that fit into your day, wherever you are.