by Ben Greenfield
Have you ever finished a long day of work and just felt too tired to go to the gym and exercise? How about frustrated by feeling as though you simply can’t stay fit, gain muscle, or lose fat because you’re sitting at a desk in your office too much?
The fact is, just because you’re at work all day doesn’t mean you can’t stay fit and trim. You just have to make some simple lifestyle and work habit adjustments. So in today’s episode, you’re going to get 4 ways to stay fit in your office, along with my top corporate wellness and workplace fitness tips, and learn how to create a physically active workplace.
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What Happens When You Can’t Exercise At Work
The costs of an inactive or sedentary workforce is significant! Businesses lose an estimated $61.2 billion annually due to preventable employee illnesses, and slowdowns or lost productivity caused by illness on the job may account for up to 60% of employer healthcare costs.
And illness isn’t the only variable affected by physical fitness or lack thereof – injuries matter too. According to the Wellness Council of America, lower-back injuries alone cause employees to miss nearly 100 million work days annually.
Of course, these may just seem like corporate bottom-line figures to you, and ultimately, I’ll bet you’re far more concerned about not growing a big bottom at work than you are about improving the company’s bottom-line (even though that’s important too).
So let’s jump in and learn how you can stay fit in your office, without having to actually step out and drive to the gym:
1. Standing Workstation
When you stand, you not only upregulate your metabolic rate, but you increase the activity of fat burning enzymes. In addition, if you’re sitting continuously for 2 hours or longer at the office, research has shown that you’re going to have a higher risk of chronic disease no matter how much you exercise when you leave work.
With the advent of standing workstations such as the UpDesk, treadmill desks like the TreadDesk, and a variety of standing workstations, there’s no excuse for not finding a way to be productive at work. Even if you don’t get a fancy standing workstation, the minimum you can do is something like I’ve done and simply find a surface in your office such as cupboard or cabinet that is high enough to put a laptop or desktop on!
And of course, you can stand while you’re talking on the phone, in meetings, while eating, and whenever possible! Check out my episode 7 Ways to Burn Calories by Standing More for practical tips and surprising benefits of standing.
2. Portable Exercise Equipment
I have a small closet in my office and I’ve managed to stuff an entire home gym into it, all for about $200. Here is what I have in my office gym:
2 Dumbbells – for presses, curls, squats, and deadlifts
1 Gymstick – special aluminum tube with elastic resistance
1 Perfirmer set – special handles for push-ups
1 FIT10 - for running in place
1 Suspension Trainer – for rows, curls, and suspended exercise
1 Yoga Mat – so I don’t sweat on my office floor, which is carpeted
Sure, you could join a health club or have a fancy gym built at your corporation, but having this simple and cheap exercise equipment only a few feet away from your workstation vastly increases your chances of squeezing a quick workout in here and there.
3. Reminder Apps
There are literally dozens of phone apps and computer apps that will remind users to either exercise or stretch at regular intervals. Here are some of my favorites:
Eyeleo – This “take a break” tool lets you rest your eyes and forces you to exercise or stretch by disabling your computer screen for a specified period of time.
Workrave - A tool that “forces” you to take micro breaks, long breaks, and even limit your daily computer usage while offering a selection of exercises you can do during these breaks.
Big Stretch Reminder - Allows you to design breaks exactly how you want them by specifying intervals, what breaks are for, levels of intrusiveness, and more.
PC Work Break – A reminder that encourages you to take micro breaks, stretching breaks, eye exercises, and even walks.
EVO - A web-based break software that allows you to select from three different ways to reduce eye strain.
4. Body Tracking Devices
When it comes to quantifying your activity, there is a ton of devices out there for tracking hours of sleep, heart rate, heart rate variability, pulse oximetry, perspiration, respiration, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, and more.
By keeping track of any of these, you can inspire yourself to move more and even engage in contests and social accountability activities with others.
For example, the emWave2 is a biofeedback device that trains you to change your heart rhythm pattern to facilitate a state of coherence and enter “the zone.” Basically, when you use the emWave2 a few minutes a day, it can teach you how to transform feelings of anger, anxiety or frustration into peace and clarity, which is good for de-stressing, and stress is certainly linked to injury, illness, and lack of motivation to exercise.
But the emWave2 is large and you certainly can’t place it discreetly in your pocket or take it with you on a run. So there are other devices that do something similar, and track even more than the emWave2, such as the Zensorium Tinke, which is a small iPhone-compatible device that can take morning resting heart rate, breath rate, heart rate variability, pulse oximetry, and heart rate.
There’s also the SweetBeat HRV System, for which you will need the SweetBeat phone app, compatible chest strap, and wireless ANT+ adapter. This system will allow you to track your heart rate variability in real time, such as when you’re out on a run, and is also something you can use with meals to test food sensitivities by tracking your heart rate response to foods.
There are also wearable units you can clip to your body throughout the day, such as the Jawbone UP and FitBit, which measure sleep, movement, and calories burned. The new MyBasis watch is a device that measures motion, perspiration, and skin temperature, and captures heart rate patterns throughout the day and night.
As you can see, the sky’s the limit when it comes to quantifying your workplace activity! You can take the data that you collect on your activity levels and upload it to any number of websites that will help you to keep track of your activity or compare it to others, including Fitocracy.com, MyFitnessPal.com, TrainingPeaks.com, DailyEndorphin.com or FitFeud.com
We started by talking about the costs of workplace illness and injury, and you already know you’re going to burn significant calories, make a serious dent in your waistline, and stay trim, fit and full of energy with the strategies above. So let’s finish with the reward for implementing these office fitness strategies.
Think about it this way: Every dollar invested in workplace wellness yields a $3 to $6 ROI. And employees actually want this stuff! In fact, 78% of employees say they’re interested in a company-sponsored wellness program and 60% of workers consider health and wellness programs an incentive to stay on the job.
One great example of how these measures can make a company more money is the DuPont corporation, which decreased disability days at its Tennessee plant by 14% after instituting a wellness program. This saved Dupont almost $120,000 annually!
As you can imagine, when you combine the individual happiness of you getting fit and having more energy with the corporate happiness of a financially healthy company not stressed by injuries and illness, you’ve got a win-win situation!
If you have more questions about ways to stay fit at your office, then post them in Comments below or join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!