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5 ways to get fit at work (that don't involve a standing desk)

The goals of ‘staying fit’ and ‘thriving at work’ tend to be mutually exclusive– with many of us regularly trying and failing balance the two.

In the past, there have been hapless attempts at office fitness. Take, for instance, a strain of articles about exercises you can do at your desk, or “desk-ercises”: think “subtle” push-ups conducted using the surface of your desk, or the “seated torso twist”. Thankfully, there seem to be significantly fewer of these articles in recent years. Then there was the walking desk trend, which also seems to have come and go (genuine question: could getting your steps in during your Zoom meeting really worth explaining, yet again, to a client that you have a teeny tiny treadmill beneath your desk?)

But these somewhat parody-worthy phenomenons needn't render getting fit at work an entirely impossible endeavour. There are perfectly legitimate ways to get a little more activity into your working day, without investing in gimicky equipment or trying to style out a workout in your office chair. Here's how to get a little bit fitter at work, without resorting to bonkers behaviour:

Commute on foot (or on a bike)

One of the best ways to integrating fitness into your work day? Simply, changing how you get to the office. A study published in medical journal The Lancet found that those who commute via walking or cycling tend to have lower BMIs and body fat percentages compared to those who drive. Even if this isn't feasible, getting off the train or bus a stop or two earlier – or even opting for public transport over driving, necessitating a walk in between stops – can ensure you stay active on the days you're in the office, and help you maintain a healthy BMI. Work from home sometimes or always? Try a “fake commute” - ie taking a walk around the block ahead of, or after, your working day.

Do lunchtime classes with your team

Stealth push-ups at your desk might be out – but planned fitness classes with your team are a different beast entirely. Not only are they a great form of team-bonding (and a healthier alternative to pub drinks), they're also a seamless way to make sure you exercise once or twice a week. So if you've been ignoring those opportunities at your workplace so far, now is the time to bite the bullet and join in. Does your workplace not yet offer such initiatives? You may be able to make it happen – something like yoga can take place in a vacant meeting room, with the help of a corporate yoga instructor or even an on-demand class streamed from YouTube on a large screen. Try chatting to your office manager or HR department to see what there's the resource for.

Do a team step count challenge

Positive peer pressure can be a powerful motivational force – and this can be easily applied among your coworkers. In a 2018 study, a group of employees using FitBots who competed in a virtual fitness app challenge which was synced up with other users walked 2,200 more steps compared to the test group who simply tracked their steps individually with just a FitBit but no social app.

Take walking meetings

“Shall we walk and talk?” It's a proposition that's hard to argue with; converting yet another meeting into an energising, on-the-move affair, whether it's a stroll around the office or even an al fresco walk to pick up a coffee off-site. And there's scientific precedent – a University of Miami study found that changing just one seated meeting per week into a walking meeting could help employees lead longer, healthier lives. Tell that to your boss.

Exercise snack during the day (preferably during WFH days)

Mixing up long periods of sitting with short “snacks” of exercise (we're talking two minutes of moderate walking up and down the stairs, or a short spell of 10 star jumps) can help you maintain muscle mass despite working a sedentary office job, University of Toronto researchers proved in a study published last year.

This approach is popularised by Feel Better Live More podcaster Rangan Chatterjee, who speaks regularly on the show about the five-minute bursts of exercise he goes while waiting for his morning coffee to brew, even leaving a set of weights in his kitchen to aid his convenient workout. FYI: this is probably best implemented on a walk from home today, unless you really want to be caught doing lunges near the printer.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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