how to stay active at a desk job
Alexander Stone - Doctor of Physical Therapy, Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Alex is a health sciences writer with experience in sports performance and rehabilitation settings. His areas of expertise include health and fitness, sports nutrition, and injury prevention. He is passionate about health science education and health/wellness optimization for people of all ages.
31.07.2023

How to Stay Active at a Desk Job & Reap the Incredible Benefits

Table Of Contents

Introduction: How to Stay Fit With a Desk Job & Why It Is Important 

Working in an office can be a drag – long hours while working late nights and indulging in plenty of snacks in the breakroom. Sitting behind a desk all day can be even worse for your health, leading to weight gain and other associated health issues like fatigue, poor concentration, and decreased strength and mobility. 

While some consider this part of the territory of having a desk job, it doesn’t have to! Here’s how you can keep fit despite being stationed at a desk: by learning practical tips on exercise, mobility,  and healthy eating habits suitable for busy working professionals. 

Read on as we dive into why staying fit is essential when you have a desk job and show you how to be healthier while sitting during your workday without needing too much time away from the office.

Sedentary Jobs: What Health Concerns Come With Sitting All Day?

In a sedentary job, the lack of physical activity can lead to various health issues. For example, spending long hours sitting can negatively impact our posture, muscles, mobility, and overall fitness. 

It can contribute to poor circulation, stiffness, and muscle imbalances, which may cause discomfort and pain. Additionally, excessive sitting has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

One of the most hazardous risks associated with sedentary jobs is the increased likelihood of chronic conditions such as obesity and associated health issues. When we spend prolonged periods sitting, our metabolism slows down, making it more likely to gain weight. 

Unfortunately, this can correlate with a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related health problems. However, we can take the following steps to counteract these effects and maintain a healthy weight.

How to Stay Active at a Desk Job

The Higher Likelihood of Experiencing Musculoskeletal Disorders

Another risk of sedentary jobs is the higher likelihood of experiencing musculoskeletal disorders. Sitting for long periods can contribute to poor posture and stiffness-leading to back pain, neck pain, and even conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, the repetitive motions involved in tasks like typing or using a mouse can strain our joints and muscles, increasing the risk of these overuse conditions. 

Prioritizing proper ergonomics and incorporating regular movement breaks can help alleviate these issues.

Take a Toll on Our Mental Health

In addition to physical risks, sedentary jobs can affect our mental health. For example, prolonged sitting can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of social connection, contributing to depression, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, inactivity in general may exacerbate these negative emotions if we feel trapped or have negative emotions toward our job. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to find ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance, prioritize self-care, and seek support when needed to protect our mental well-being. Exercise improves mental well-being as well as physical health. 

By being proactive and incorporating healthy habits into our daily routines, we can mitigate the risks associated with sedentary jobs. Regular physical activity, maintaining proper posture, taking breaks to stretch and move, and fostering a positive work environment are all essential steps toward promoting our overall health and happiness in the face of sedentary work. 

How to Stay Fit With a Desk Job –  Get Moving During Your Workday

Absolutely! Staying fit and active while working a desk job is essential for overall health and well-being. While it may seem challenging to incorporate physical activity into your workday, there are plenty of simple and effective ways to get moving. So, let’s explore some expert-backed advice on how to stay fit with a desk job.

Take Regular Movement Breaks: 

Set a reminder to get up & move every 30 minutes to an hour. Use the time to stretch your legs, walk around the office, or do some quick exercises. Even a brisk walk to the water cooler or a few stretches can significantly reduce the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. This helps to improve blood flow and mobility. 

Use Modes of Active Transportation: 

Consider active transportation options for your commute, if feasible. Walking or biking to work can provide an excellent opportunity to incorporate physical activity into your day. If distance or time constraints don’t allow this, try getting off public transportation a few stops earlier to take extra steps.

Opt for Active Lunch Breaks: 

Use the time to engage in physical activity. For instance, going for a brisk walk outside, doing a quick workout, or joining a nearby gym or fitness class are excellent options. Not only will this boost your activity levels, but it can help refresh your mind and improve productivity in the afternoon.

Desk Exercises and Active Desk Setups: 

Incorporating desk exercises throughout the day is a way to keep your body active throughout the workday. Perform simple exercises like chair squats, desk push-ups, shoulder stretches, or leg raises under your desk. Consider using an adjustable desk, a stability ball as a chair, or even a treadmill desk to engage your muscles and improve posture.

Encourage Workplace Wellness: 

Promote a healthy workplace wellness culture by organizing walking meetings, fitness challenges, or standing desks. Encourage colleagues to join you in staying active and sustain each other in making healthier choices.

How Often Should You Take Breaks When Sitting for Long Periods of Time?

Scientists have discovered a noteworthy correlation between the amount of time spent sitting and its impact on a person’s health, as the New York Times reported. The study suggests that taking regular breaks from sitting, especially breaks involving more movement than just standing up, can positively impact our well-being. 

People who took breaks from sitting every 30 minutes had a lower mortality risk than those who sat for lengthier periods, even if their total sitting time was the same.

So, what does this mean for us? It means incorporating movement breaks into our day, every half an hour at least, can help us avoid some health issues associated with prolonged sitting. These breaks don’t have to be extravagant; even something as easy as walking to the kitchen to refill your coffee cup, going to the bathroom, or doing a quick stretch can make a difference in your long-term health. 

The key is to get our bodies moving regularly throughout the day.

By taking these short breaks, we can break up the sedentary pattern and allow our bodies to move and stretch. This can help improve blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, and keep our metabolism active. Plus, it’s a great way to refresh our minds, combat the feelings of fatigue or stiffness that can come with sitting for long periods, and provide a form of stress relief.

So, the next time you sit for an extended period, remember to set a reminder or find a cue to prompt you to get up and move around at least every 30 minutes. Take a short walk, do light exercises, or stretch your legs and arms. Not only will these breaks benefit your physical health, but they can also help you feel more energized and focused throughout the day.

7 Best Tips for Sitting at a Desk All Day and Losing Weight

1. Make Work-Life Balance a Priority

Maintaining a healthy balance is conducive to a healthy weight and overall happiness. Make time for physical activity outside work hours, spend quality time with loved ones, pursue hobbies, and get enough sleep. Balancing work and personal life promotes overall wellness and helps manage weight effectively.

2. Practice Stress Management

Find ways to manage stress throughout the workday to avoid compulsive eating. Some examples include taking short breaks to practice deep breathing, meditation, or gentle stretching. Engaging in stress-reducing activities can help prevent mindless snacking and promote overall well-being.

3. Stay Mindful of Portion Sizes

Be mindful of portion sizes when eating at your desk. Use smaller plates or containers to help control portion sizes. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and eat until you’re satisfied, not overly full.

4. Plan Your Lunch

Prepare and pack a healthy lunch in advance to avoid eating unhealthy fast food. Include a balanced lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables to feel more full. Homemade meals allow you to control the ingredients and portion sizes, promoting weight loss and better nutrition.

5. Pack Healthy Snacks

Opt for nutritious snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, or yogurt to satisfy your midday hunger. It’s best to avoid vending machine snacks or sugary treats since they tend to be packed with calories and lack the necessary nutrients.

6. Remember to Keep Yourself Hydrated

To maintain a healthy metabolism & stay hydrated, it’s recommended that you consume ample amounts of water. It’s advisable to keep a water bottle on your desk and consciously drink water frequently throughout the day. Staying hydrated can also help curb unnecessary snacking and promote overall well-being.

7. Maintain a Good Posture

Sit with your back in a neutral position, meaning not overly arched or round. Shoulders calm, and feet are lying on the floor or on a footrest and not dangling. Avoid slouching your upper back, as it can strain your back and neck muscles. Maintaining proper posture helps prevent discomfort and improves breathing and digestion.

Staying Fit While Working From Home with 5 Experts’ Recommendations

Working from home has become increasingly favored, and while it offers many benefits, it can also pose challenges when it comes to staying fit and active. Fortunately, experts have shared some valuable recommendations to help you maintain your fitness and well-being while working remotely. So let’s explore these friendly tips together:

Establish a Daily Exercise Routine: 

Set aside dedicated daily time for physical activity. Whether it’s a morning workout, a midday walk, or an evening yoga session, having a consistent exercise routine helps you stay accountable and ensures regular movement throughout the day. In addition, choose activities you enjoy, such as jogging, dancing, or online workout classes, to make it more fun and sustainable.

Create an Ergonomic Workstation: 

Design a workspace that prioritizes your comfort and posture. For example, invest in a supportive chair, adjust your desk height, set your armrests so that your elbows are at 90 degrees, and position your computer monitor at eye level for less neck strain, back, and eyes. Taking care of your physical well-being through ergonomics while working at a desk will improve your overall fitness, mobility, and wellness.

Take Active Breaks: 

Instead of scrolling through social media or checking emails during short breaks, use that time to get moving. Use brief exercises like jumping jacks, stretching, or a quick dance session. These active breaks not only refresh your mind but also provide an opportunity to boost your energy levels and get your blood flowing to improve your joint and tissue mobility.

Make Healthy Eating Choices: 

Working from home sometimes leads to mindless snacking. To maintain a balanced diet, stock your kitchen with nutritious snacks high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, or high in protein, such as yogurt and eggs. Plan meals to avoid impulsive choices and ensure a well-rounded, nourishing diet!

Prioritize Mental Well-being: 

Taking care of your mental health is as important as physical fitness. Find ways to manage stress and relax, such as practicing mindfulness, meditation, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy. Try to work during business hours only, and avoid late nights if possible. In addition, make time for self-care activities that help you unwind and recharge. Remember, a healthy mind contributes to a healthy body.

Stay Connected: 

Working from home can periodically feel separated, so try to connect with colleagues, friends, and family through physical activity. For example, schedule virtual workout sessions or participate in online fitness challenges together. Sharing your fitness journey with others can provide motivation and support, making it more enjoyable and rewarding.

staying fit while working from home

Health Tips for Office Workers – Try These Exercises

  • Stretch at Your Desk: 

Perform simple stretches right at your desk to release tension and improve flexibility. For example, try shoulder rolls, neck stretches, wrist rotations, and seated spinal twists. Hold each pose for 15-30 seconds for two or three sets.

  • Engage Your Core: 

While seated, engage your core muscles by gently drawing your belly button toward your spine periodically throughout the day. Sit upright and avoid slouching in your chair. 

  • Desk Push-Ups: 

Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of your desk, step back, and align your body in a diagonal plank position. Lower your chest toward the desk by bending your elbows and then push back up. 

  • Seated Leg Raises: 

While seated, straighten one leg and lift it off the ground until it is parallel to the floor. Slowly return it back to the starting position with control. Aim for 10 repetitions for two to three sets.

  • Chair Squats: 

Stand up in front of your chair, lower yourself toward the seat, and hover just above it. Pause for a moment and then stand back up. Try to keep your spine neutral and weigh back towards your heels. Aim for 10 repetitions for two to three sets.

  • Take the Stairs: 

If your office has stairs, choose them over the elevator whenever possible. 

Finally 

Staying active while working a desk job can vastly benefit our mental and physical health, so finding ways to fit movement into the workday is crucial. Aim to make small changes in the beginning. Even getting up for short walks or taking a quick stretch break every hour can significantly impact your health and mental well-being. 

Plus, committing to being active like this makes you feel more energized & motivated throughout your work day. You might even find productivity increases when you essentially ‘take laps’ between tasks. 

So why not try it out? Commit to being active and enjoy the fantastic benefits that will soon come your way!

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Alex is a health sciences writer with experience in sports performance and rehabilitation settings. His areas of expertise include health and fitness, sports nutrition, and injury prevention. He is passionate about health science education and health/wellness optimization for people of all ages.