10 ways to fit exercise into a busy workday

We all know that exercise is important for both our physical and mental health and wellbeing at work. By taking care of yourself, you perform better in your job. But with busy work schedules and personal commitments to juggle, finding the time to dedicate to exercise can be a challenge. The reality is, our time is often extremely limited.

So, if you’ve been asking yourself how you can incorporate exercise into the workday and are struggling to come up with an answer, we’ve investigated a few simple solutions to help you get started.

How do you squeeze exercise into your day? 

Regardless of how busy you are at work, prioritising your health and wellbeing is essential. Regular exercise is vital for career success, too, since it improves our concentration and mental stamina while reducing stress. 

Here are 10 tips for introducing more exercise into your day, no matter how consuming your job is. These tips work just as well for home-based workers as they do for people who commute into their workplace each day.

1. Ride to work

Every year, Australia celebrates National2Ride to Work Day. The event is Australia’s biggest celebration of commuter riding. It encourages people who have never previously commuted to work by bike to see for themselves what the experience is like. It’s also a motivational event for regular riders.

Figures reported by Cycling UK indicate that cycling to work is linked with a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with the risks associated with commuting by car or public transport.

The further you are from your workplace, the greater the benefits of cycling. But even relatively short rides to work, or before you logon if you are working from home, have a lot of upsides to improving your health and fitness. Cycling UK states that riding about 30 kilometres to work every week can reduce your risk of coronary disease by half.

That equates to just a 3km commute to work and home each day (6km total).

2. Liven up lunchtime with a walk

When the weather is fine, and you have interesting surroundings to walk in, your lunch break is a great opportunity to walk. After all, staying sedentary in the same café each day, or at home for home-based workers, can be repetitive. Studies have shown that workers report increased enthusiasm, greater relaxation and less nervousness after a walk during their lunch break.

Consider plotting a couple of walking tracks you have never taken before and set off on a relaxing lunch time walk while you eat. A relatively light 45-minute walk at lunch time can add up to near 5 kilometres, which is a few hundred calories burned for the day. Using your lunch break to go walking really is a very efficient use of your time.

3. Try workplace yoga

Even if you don’t participate in a formal yoga program at work, you can still perform yoga in the workplace with relatively minimal preparation. All you really need for a rewarding session is a mat and a small space inside the office or outside in a nearby park or onsite garden.

You might split your routine into five-minute segments, including breathing exercises, physical warm up, yoga postures, stretches, and a cool down. 

If you want a more formal yoga program at your work, consider taking the initiative to introduce one. Enquire with your manager or HR team about introducing a yoga or wellbeing program into your workplace. If you can play a part in getting if off the ground, you’ll be doing yourself a big help, but also contributing to the health and wellbeing of your organisation.

4. Introduce a standing desk to your day

In 2016, researchers studied call centre employees to investigate how they benefited from working at standing desks. They found that standing desk users were 45% more productive at work each day, compared with seated employees. The study also found that standing desk users’ productivity increased a further 23% in a month, and 53% over the next six months.

If you are like most office employees, you probably spend almost your entire day sitting at your desk. With a standing desk, however, your physical activity throughout the day can be significantly greater. So along with improving your productivity, a standing workspace can give a boost to your overall fitness.

As national data reports, close to half of Australian adults aged 18-64 describe their day at work as mostly sitting (43.7%).

If you do decide to look for a standing desk, consider investing in a sit-stand desk, rather than a fixed standing desk. That way you have flexibility to sit and stand throughout the day, as your tasks, activities and schedule require.

5. Uncover the benefits of meditation

Like yoga, meditation is an activity you can practice pretty much anywhere. Simple meditation exercises, such as slow and controlled breathing, are found to improve immunity and heart health, while mental and emotional benefits include reductions in the severity of depression and anxiety. 

Meditating at work can also help you with focusing on tasks, sustaining energy and remaining resilient in difficult situations.

If you want to engage with guided meditation exercises at work, one of the simplest solutions is exploring the many meditation and mindfulness apps and podcasts online today. These have exploded in recent years, and it’s expected that they will continue to advance as many workplaces look for additional ways to support the wellbeing of their staff. 

6. Exercise at your desk

You can exercise at your desk (“deskercise”) in a range of ways. Stretching your body, for example, can be done while you work, or you could attach a resistance band to your chair or complete sets of muscle group tensing.

You can discretely perform all these activities at your desk without breaking your focus or – more importantly – the focus of your co workers.

7. Take the 10,000 Steps challenge

10,000 Steps is a free fitness program aimed at encouraging Australians to increase their physical exercise and activity. The program is adopted by organisations of all sizes who are inspired to challenge employees to be more active.

With team-based tournaments to enter, it’s also a great team building exercise at work. Meanwhile, it’s an affordable and flexible way to promote more physical activity in your workday.

8. Use your bodyweight to exercise

If you don’t have an onsite gym at your organisation (many of us don’t), there are still many activities you can participate in that don’t require gym equipment or a complete workout to stay in shape.

Crunches, push-ups, sit-ups, and glute bridges are all examples of the type of weight-loading exercises you can perform without any equipment.

One or two sessions per week is a good way to introduce exercise into a busy workday. If possible, you can combine these exercises with a more formal workout in the morning or evening outside of work hours.

9. Gym sessions at lunchtime

If you’re fortunate enough to have a gym very close to your place of work or home, it could well be worth the membership. Many studies have shown that 30 minutes exercise three to five times per week can make a big difference to health, wellbeing and weight loss.

By squeezing a few efficient sessions per week into your lunchbreaks, you win back your own time out of work hours. Such sessions are also a proven way to restore the energy you need to perform work at your mental peak, and chances are you’ll return to your work in an elevated mood.

10. Prioritise incidental activity

Incidental activity refers to those incremental physical activities that accumulate throughout the day. Common examples include walking to the bus stop, walking around the office (or, if you’re working from home, from your desk to the kettle) or taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

If you think about all the incidental activities you undertake each working day, you might be surprised by how many there are to build physicality into. 

So, why not take stock of all the opportunities you have to make incidental activity more vigorous to improve your fitness. For example, can you turn stand-up meetings into walking meetings? Can you start by making a commitment to take the stairs instead of the lift? Or, if you’re working from home, can you perform a few squats while the kettle boils? 

Now you know how to incorporate exercise into the workday, get started!

As you can see, there are various ways you can commit to making time for exercise in your busy day. There’s really no excuse now for letting exercise slip down your priority list. So, despite your busy work schedule, why not try out some of the above strategies this week to see how you can squeeze exercise into your day?

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