Spending a lot of time at a desk job can make it seem impossible to get enough exercise in on a daily basis. On top of that, many people have a daily commute that has them sitting in the car for an hour or more every day. Then we come home and “sit down” to dinner.
Even though I’ve started to go to the gym a few times a week for some really intense strength training, it’s still the sedentary nature of most of my work day that’s hard to change. I have noticed that I’ve started to feel a little more restless if I sit for too long and if I don’t get to the gym for a couple of days then I start to feel almost achy, as if my muscles are begging for a stretch and a workout.
If you’ve got a desk job like I do, there are a few things you can do to improve the amount of activity you get each day.
Track Your Steps
Turn on your phone’s step tracker. iPhones have Apple Health built right in and Android-based phones have Google Fit available. These devices allow you to track the number of steps you take each day using the devices’ built-in movement sensors. You can open the app and see a summary by day including charts that show your trends. Since I almost always have my phone in my pocket, this is a decent measurement of activity for me. Of course, if you don’t carry your phone with you all the time, this may not help.
In that case, you might want to consider a simple pedometer – a device with a small sensor that can be carried in your pocket or attached to clothing like a belt to track your steps. You can write down the steps it tracks in your daily food journal if it helps to keep up with how much activity you’re getting. These devices can range from no frills step trackers all the way up to full featured “wearable” devices (like the Fitbit Blaze) that can track things like heart rate and sleep quality.
Just tracking your steps may make you more conscious of the amount of activity you’re getting (or not getting) and encourage you to move more. But beyond that, you might set a goal to double your daily average. For example, if your average between Monday and Friday is 3,000 steps, you might decide that you want to increase that to 6,000 steps over the next month. (Note that I factor out weekends because I personally am much more active on the weekends. I want to try and increase my activity during the times when I’m most sedentary.)
What this would mean is that I need to squeeze in an extra 3,000 steps each day. That’s about 1.5 miles (counting roughly 2,000 steps as a mile). If you walk an average of 3 miles per hour – which is not slow, but not quite what I’d call “brisk” either – then you need just 30 minutes during the day to get that in. Here’s a couple of ways you can do that really easily.
Break Time Walks
The people in your office that smoke are probably pretty regimented about taking their smoke breaks. So why not be just as regimented about taking “walk breaks”? How about a couple of laps around the office park at lunch? These are easy ways to increase your daily activity. (Take your phone with you so it counts your steps!)
A good goal to set is a 10-15 minute walk every couple of hours. It’s better if it’s a brisk walk as opposed to a leisurely stroll. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, break-a-sweat activity. Just enough to get your heart pumping. Spend some time stretching your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders too. Note that if you succeed in getting three (3) ten minute walks in, that will put you in the range of increasing your steps by 3,000 per day. It’s that easy!
I’ve found that when I get into a good routine of exercise, I typically prefer that over sedentary activities like watching TV. It doesn’t have to be weight lifting or high intensity training all the time.
Sometimes, it’s enough for me to go to the jump and get on the treadmill and just walk for 30-45 minutes. Now, I will say this: I absolutely hate treadmills. But, if I get an audiobook (e.g. through Audible.com) or even an actual book – if I’m walking briskly and not running – and put my headphones in with my favorite Spotify playlist, then the time goes by pretty fast and I don’t feel like I’m just stuck on a treadmill quite so much. But that 30-45 minutes will probably get me about 3,000-4,500 steps – somewhere between 1.5 and 2.25 miles. Doing this two times a week on top of my 10 minute walking breaks will really increase my average daily activity.
There are tons of other ways you can get your daily activity levels up. You could take a group exercise class, take the stairs instead of the elevator, take your favorite canine friend on a nice walk in the neighborhood, do some yard work, a little vigorous house cleaning or any number of other activities. All these things will increase your activity levels, get your blood flowing a little better and help you feel better (and better about yourself too!)