Fitness Fun

5 Ways to Exercise at Work (Without Getting Fired)

exercise at workWeekend warrior-ism isn’t going to save us. In fact, a daily workout isn’t even enough. If you’re spending most of your day sitting at your desk, experts say you’re in the health-risk zone. So how do you get out of the health-risk zone? Exercise at work!

But, as we all know, fitness advice sometimes falls short of reality. Constantly jumping up to walk to coworkers’ offices in the middle of a project, rather than calling or emailing, might not be feasible. And taking a midday exercise break can render you tired and distracted back at the office.

So how are we supposed to prevent work from killing our health, and our health from killing our productivity at work?

I wrote in my last post that, for me, the biggest obstacle is that regular mini-breaks keep me from getting into my “work groove.” And when I’m in cerebral mode, I don’t exactly feel pumped for exercise. However, I like solutions as much as I like pointing out problems, and the bum grooves in my office chair are getting a little too deep!

So I’ve rounded up tips from productivity pros that, when applied to exercise breaks, might help us find a happy balance at last.

See if any of these tricks help you stay focused and fit at work:

Match your workout to your work mode

Grouping similar activities, called “batching,” eliminates some of the mental setup time required between activities. Why not apply it to exercise? If your schedule involves a series of quick activities like phone calls, emails and errands, try squeezing in a brief high-intensity workout or two, which may keep your energy going. If you’re working on a mentally intensive project, on the other hand, a moderate-intensity walk could actually help you clear your head and gain a new perspective, solve a problem or refocus on priorities.

Schedule it

Don’t squander your exercise time! Making a schedule at the beginning of the day, including breaks, should help you avoid cutting into break time by dawdling at the water cooler or spending too much time checking email. A regular routine creates automatic cues in the brain, so switching between work and exercise will soon become effortless. Knowing that a break is coming up in 15 minutes may give you an extra productivity push too.

Mentally map out your break

Start thinking about your break while you’re doing other tasks; visualize when you’ll go, how you’ll prepare (change shoes, then bathroom, then water fountain) and what you’ll do (10 flights of stairs, or walking twice around the block). It will be easier to switch tasks if you’ve already started mentally preparing, and visualization has the added benefit of creating a mental pact with yourself to do something.

Leave off strategically

When writing his books, there’s a famous author who pauses at a spot where he can easily pick back up again—often midsentence. The brain hates incomplete sentences, he explains, so his mind stays dialed in to the work and he has no trouble jumping back in when he returns to it. A to-do list and a few notes might help you pick up where you left off, whether you want to move around for 10 minutes every hour or head out for a long workout during lunch.*

Drink up

I just read this in Fitness Magazine: dehydration is a big cause of fatigue and lack of focus after exercise. So if you’re heading out for a midday workout, be sure you’ve had plenty of water first and keep drinking when you get back. Plan to drink around 73 oz. of water per day, the article recommends.

Don’t believe that an extra cup of water will really boost your brain power? The IdealShape team has done a great deal of research on the connection between hydration and clear thinking, and it turned out to be so crucial that the foundational CD in the hypnosis for weight loss series teaches us how to drink more of it.

*Don’t forget to fuel: If you plan to exercise during your lunch break, you’ll obviously need to eat beforehand. Skyler Meine and I rounded up a list of easy-to-digest pre-workout meals for U.S. News—have a look.

As for dealing with getting sweaty at work, a reader of my last post has it down; check out her comment.

And now, for the big question… do you think it’s effective—or safe—to walk and work at the same time? Would you ever use a Trek Desk?

Other good reads from IdealShape:

Water you waiting for?

Use Hypnosis to take charge of your Weight

Make the Most out of Breakfast


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Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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