Nearly all of us need to make more time for fitness. Finding that time, though, can seem impossible.
But what if you could wedge that workout in at work? If it sounds far-fetched (or a great way to get yourself fired), listen up. Dr. James Levine, an obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic, says Americans don’t need to log more time at a gym. Instead, they need to banish their sedentary ways by incorporating easy bursts of activity from dawn to dusk.
He calls it NEAT fitness, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. In layman’s terms, it means cranking up the body’s calorie-burning abilities by weaving in near-constant movement – such as standing, walking, even pacing – at every opportunity.
Becoming a body in motion that stays in motion could help you burn 500 or more extra calories a day. Combine that with smart food choices, and we could be well on our way to reversing the nation’s ever-expanding waistline.
Here are 50 ways to add more movement to your workday include taking the stairs, pacing while on the phone and marking walking trails.
1. Walk or bike to work once a week.
2. Don’t park your car in the spot closest to the front door. Instead, find the parking stall farthest away. (Of course, take security into consideration.)
3. Stairs, no elevators.
4. Stop the impulse to email. Instead, get up off your duff and walk to a colleague’s desk to deliver a work message.
5. Walk 15 minutes before work. (That’s 7½ minutes in one direction, and then turn around.)
6. Walk 15 minutes at lunch.
7. Walk 15 minutes after your shift ends.
8. Walk 15 minutes after you park your car at home. Boom. You just put in an hour’s worth of walking.
9. Consider commuting at least once a week. Walking to and from a bus or train stop could be a nice way to break up the routine.
10. Get a headset, or a long handset cord, and pace while talking on the phone or listening to a conference call.
11. No room to pace? Then stand at your desk.
12. Boss won’t spring for a standing desk? Then just stand while you’re sorting mail.
13. Stand while you’re reviewing your schedule for the day.
14. Stand while you’re reading paperwork or riffling through files.
15. Need to catch up with a colleague to dissect a hot date? Do it over a walk, not while standing at the water cooler.
Speaking of walking and gossiping, how about:
16. Walk-and-talk meetings.
17. Standing meetings.
18. Create “walking trails” in your building. Levine suggests different colored pieces of duct tape, and signs, to let trail walkers know just how far they’ve gone.
19. Relocate your mailbox to the opposite side of the building.
20. Use the bathroom on the opposite side of the building.
21. Same goes for the microwave.
22. Ditto for the refrigerator.
23. Repeat for the water cooler.
24. And the coffee maker.
25. And the trash can.
26. Find a coffee spot that’s a brisk 10-minute walk away. Make a point to walk there three times a week.
27. Bosses! Take your employees for coffee at aforementioned coffee shop. Conduct a walk-and-talk meeting along the way.
28. Challenge your co-workers to get to 10,000 steps a day on their pedometer or fitness tracker.
29. Put social media to work. Post your fitness tracker results to Twitter and Instagram each day. Use the hashtag #PedometerWars so we’ll see it too and help cheer you on.
30. Start a walking club. Three times a week, meet before or after work for a 30-minute walk. (Everyone starts together but proceeds at their own pace.) Do it indoors and you never have to worry about the weather.
31. Grab your GPS and map out simple walking routes outside the office. Come up with a variety of distances. Create maps. Distribute.
32. Create friendly challenges among co-workers or departments. Tally up step counts once a month: Losers buy the winners a healthful lunch.
33. Find a race that’s friendly to walkers. Twice a week, co-workers can gather for a walking session and then everyone trains on their own the rest of the time.
34. Unleash your inner “Top Chef.” Once a week, hold a healthful potluck. Everyone brings in a recipe. Vote. Crown a winner. Share the recipe.
35. Instead of Friday night happy hour, how about Friday night healthy hour? Bring in wholesome snacks to share before walking over to the local watering hole for a drink. (Think of all the money and junk-food calories you’ll save on bar food.)
36. Replace the office candy dish with a fruit jar.
37. Replace the office candy dish with a nut jar.
38. Throw out the office candy dish.
39. Scout out fast-and-healthful lunch options that are a brisk walk away. Share the menus.
40. Twice a week, brown bag a healthful lunch.
41. Leave the lunch in a cooler in your car and walk to your car at lunchtime to retrieve it.
42. After eating at your desk, walk the cooler back to the car.
43. Bring your cooler in when you arrive for work, and then walk to a park to eat lunch.
44. Consider the businesses within walking distance of your job. Can you get in some walking while knocking out errands before or after work, or at lunch? Think about the dry cleaner, post office, pharmacy, farmers’ market.
45. Set an alarm to go off every hour on the hour. When it does, get up and take a short, brisk stroll or stand and stretch – and then get back to work.
46. Bring your coffee in a Thermos, and you can make your coffee break a walk break.
47. Start a private Facebook page and use it to share workouts, websites, recipes and anything else that will keep everyone encouraged.
48. Do you have a place that would be great for yoga, Pilates or guided meditation classes? Consider finding instructors to conduct classes before or after work.
49. Want to amp up the workday workout? Levine suggests a portable hydraulic stepper under your desk. Break it out during lengthy conference calls.
50. Instead of a traditional desk chair, consider a stability ball, Levine said.
Levine encourages challenging employees to come up with their own no-cost exercise equipment that they can stow under their desks. One woman, he recalled, made hand weights out of jars filled with sand collected on a family vacation. She couldn’t help but smile when she reached for the weights and did light arm exercises while listening in to conference calls. Another office used fitness challenges to settle friendly arguments. And one created “steps” using reclaimed wood that employees stepped up and down on during no-sit meetings.