How to find ways to move more when at work

I think that anyone that works at a desk all day and is interested in their health and fitness probably feels they need to move more during the day – I know I do. The nature of a desk job means that, even if you put aside an hour every day to do some exercise, you still spend the bulk of your time not moving.

The average work day for a desk-bound exerciser

If we assume 8 hours sleep (lucky you!), 8 hours sat at your desk (luck you again!) and 1 hour exercise that leaves an additional 7 hours to account for. Let’s be generous and say our average desk-bound exerciser has another 3 hours of random moving during the day from walking to/from the train station and office, cooking, showering etc. We still have 4 extra hours left over, let’s be less generous with those and assume they are taken up by sitting eating, commuting and watching some tv in the evening.

So if we combine the moving, and not moving times we get: Andy’s amazing average desk-bound exerciser movement chart

Oh dear. Obviously even our super-good, super-fit, desk-bound exerciser would be better off with some extra movement in their day.

So what can you do?

As much as it would be lovely to simply reduce the work time and add in more exercise that isn’t feasible. Instead we can look at ways to break up the time spent not moving with bits of moving – genius.

Frank Forencich of Exuberant Animal uses a lovely phrase for this kind of thing: movement snacks. The is exactly what we are looking for, bite-sized bits of movement throughout the day that don’t tire you out but break up the inactivity.

There are a million ways you could do this, but here are a few of my favourites:

  • Take the stairs. I think this is the simplest and most worthwhile of all. I work on the 6th floor so even on a really busy day I know I will get 12 flights up and 12 flights down. Chances are I will go to meetings during the day or head out at lunchtime as well so get a fair bit of extra movement this way. It took some time to get used to but now is second nature.
  • Do some joint mobility every time you go to the toilet. Focus on the bits that get tight when you are sat down – shoulders, upper back, hips – it all helps.
  • Go and see people. I sometimes get instant messages from people that sit a few desks away. If you take the time to get up and see people you will move more, be more social, and probably use the stairs more – winner!
  • Practice squatting. Simply changing the angle your knees are stuck at for a little while has to be good for you. Your hips will be happy too.
  • Do a quick lunchtime workout. I’ve unashamedly stolen this from a post on the Dave Draper forum. It doesn’t even just have to be lunchtime but the idea is to do mini workouts throughout the day. This would be loads easier if you could hang a pull up bar somewhere, or have some weights under your desk, and even easier if you are working at home. Equipment isn’t necessary though, a quick workout that I’m doing at lunctimes is 2-3 rounds of:
      • Push ups x 5-10
      • Wall batwing* x 20-30sec
      • Squat x 5-10
      • Wall batwing* x 20-30sec
  • Sit on the floor. This more of a home than work thing, and isn’t really moving but  making time spent sitting more productive. I can’t remember which Dan John post it was from but the idea was: ‘You can watch as much TV as you want, but sit on the floor while you do’. You basically end up fidgeting and stretching the whole time – good stuff.

There are loads of other options but hopefully this gives an idea. The stairs themselves have plenty of opportunity for variety – take 2/3 at once, go up them backwards, on tip toes etc.

* This is taken from Dan John’s excellent book Intervention. You stand a foot or so away from a wall lean back into it, plank yourself, then push you elbows back into the wall hard. If you are doing it right your rhomboids will say ‘wakey wakey!’


Do this one thing for better day to day health

Ok, I have told a little lie. It’s not just one thing but a few things, but doing this one thing (which is good for you) makes it easier to do a bunch of other stuff that is also good for you. This tip is especially useful for anyone that spends a lot of their day sat at a desk. And the tip is:

Drink more water.

How is that going to make a difference? Firstly, as you sit at your desk tapping away you are probably not drinking enough anyway so increasing your intake can only be a good thing. Secondly, as you drink more water you are probably going to want to do something else more. This will make you walk at least as far as the toilet more often than you do at the moment. Getting up and moving more during the day will help reduce the negative effects of sitting.

Every time you go to the loo do a little something to loosen up any parts of your body that get tight when sitting. It doesn’t have to be much, but just enough to get some blood flowing to the areas that have gone to sleep. Things you could try are:

  • Hip mobility
  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Trap/upper back stretches
  • Thoracic spine mobility
  • Pec stretches
  • Shoulder mobility
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Glute activation
  • You get the idea…….

Exactly what you do isn’t that important. The point is to make sure you create some blood flow and do something other than sit at regular intervals during the day. This is just an example of how a simple behaviour change can help make that easier.