If you sit at a desk eight to ten hours a day, five days a week, it can seem really difficult to squeeze in any extra time for a workout. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however, it just takes commitment.
Maybe you wake up two hours earlier to hit the gym, or take a quick jog while dinner is cooking. After making it a routine, you’ll begin to notice that it will leave you feeling energized, as well as provide a boost to your metabolism.
But, if you really can’t find the time to go to the gym before or after work, there are some great exercises you can do while working at the office. While these are more or less conditioning moves that may not make you sweat to the full extent like you would in a cardio class, they will engage your muscles and help you burn a few calories in the process, proving that every little bit counts.
Here are some easy ways to add some exercise into your day. Just remember to stick with it for four to five days per week to start seeing results.
Invest in a standing desk
Standing alone can help you burn more calories—doing so for four hours a day will help you burn 120 extra units than you would sitting. To help with this effort at work you might consider investing in a standing desk, which has the added benefit of helping to improve core and leg strength as well as posture and also reduce eye strain.
Here’s how to set it up the right way: Place your computer screen on the adjustable shelf, slightly above resting eye level—this will cause you to look up slightly to see the screen and will prevent you from hunching over as you type on a keyboard. Once you get used to the setup, try taking it to the next level by flexing your core for short periods of time (one to two minutes) while standing, until you feel a burn. Repeat this multiple times throughout the day for it to be the most effective.
Extra tip: Take it easy on your knees, hips, and ankles by putting a gel mat under your feet to take off some of the pressure.
Use a stability ball for a chair
If you would rather sit at your desk, you can still get a good workout by substituting a chair with an oversized stability ball. Because it wobbles, the ball will consistently engage your abdominal muscles to prevent you from falling off. This will improve your core strength over time, which will also improve posture and balance.
Using a stability ball is also great for spinal health. Balancing on it while you sit requires your spine to be aligned, which can greatly reduce minor back aches and pains.
Take the stairs
This works no matter what floor of the building your office is on. If you’re feeling up to it, take all 20 flights of stairs. Or, maybe you’d rather take just 10 flights and then ride the elevator the rest of the way up (you can always work your way up to the full amount, too). Even if you’re on the second floor, you can still get a good workout by adding a few extra rounds, or take the stairs to another, higher floor when you need a bathroom break, for example. Doing so repeatedly will kick up your heart rate and burn calories, as well as work your leg muscles and tone glutes.
Ride your bike to and from work
If the weather is nice, start pedaling! Riding your bike to work is a great way to get a workout in—it’s just like going to a spin class but it costs zero dollars. It also gets your blood flowing before work, which helps to deliver oxygen to all parts of the body and leaves you feeling awake and alert. Just make sure to 1) set an alarm and leave extra time to get to work 2) fill up a water bottle to stay hydrated on your ride, and 3) bring along some of these self-care products to freshen up when you arrive.
Keep light dumbbells at hand
Here’s another trick: Keep a pair of light dumbbells under your desk to do a few reps anytime you need to take a break from the screen. Choose a weight that feels natural to you but still requires you to exert some effort (anything from five to ten pounds is a good idea). Plan to do 12 reps of curls, over presses, and reverse flyes—and complete three full rounds. Doing so at least once a day will result in toned arms in no time.
Add in some desk pushups
Pushups are one of the best arm and core workouts you can do, and your desk provides the perfect launch pad. First, place your palms on the edge of your desk, a shoulder-width apart. Take a couple steps forward so that you’re resting in a slanted plank position and then push off the desk with your hands. Do this for 10 to 12 reps, and repeat for three total rounds. In between each round pause 15 seconds to get your momentum and strength back.
These are just a few ways you can get a good workout in at work—when you do find time to hit the gym, you’ll only be multiplying your efforts. Who knows, you may also encourage a co-worker to join in and have an instant workout buddy.