How to stay fit with a desk job

Awareness, Office health and safety

How to stay fit with a desk job

When around 81% of UK office workers spend between four and nine hours sitting at desks each day, a sedentary lifestyle and a poor office set-up is something we’ve gotten used to. But, it shouldn’t have to be this way. It’s now more important than ever to know how to stay fit with a desk job. Here’s how you can create a healthier and fitter working day.  

Walk where you can

If you’re lucky enough to live close to your workplace, try walking in a few days a week. A good twenty-minute, half-hour or full-hour walk a couple of  a week will do wonders for your fitness. Not only that, you’ll be helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. If you can’t walk in, then why not park a bit further away to give yourself more walking time. Work on the third or top floor? Ditch the lift and use the stairs. Before you’ve even got to your desk, you can burn some extra calories. 

Walking breaks and lunch breaks

If you work more than six hours a day, you have a right to one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break during the working day, whether it’s for lunch or a brew. Many employers allow one hour for lunches with time for breaks during the day. Use these breaks to stretch the legs, go out for a walk or do some exercise. 

Sit-stand desks

Sit-stand desks are perfect for helping with posture and stretching the legs. These clever desks are adjustable, so you can switch between tasks that need to be done sitting down or when you need to change your position and increase circulation. You can also get anti-fatigue mats for standing desks to reduce pain, stress or discomfort from standing on a hard floor for a long period of time. Balance boards are made for standing desks to increase energy expenditure by 19.2% compared to sitting which means you actually burn calories. They can also increase your heart rate by 15%.  

Exercises at the desk

When at the desk, there are a range of stretches and exercises you can do to make your working day a little more active. 

Desk stretches

  • Sitting back extensions: Sit straight with feet together, putting the palms of your hands into the small of your back, before leaning back over your hands to feel your lumbar stretch out 
  • Prayer stretches: Start on your hands and knees with your hands in front of your knees. You then slowly lower your bottom towards your feet until you feel a mild to moderate stretch through your mid to lower back area. Hold this stretch for around 15 to 20 seconds, then repeat three to five times
  • Seated lateral trunk stretches: In a seated position, lift one arm over your head whilst placing the other hand on your thigh. Slowly, bend towards the opposite side where your hand is on your thigh until you feel a stretch along the side of your trunk (torso) and hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat three to five times on each side
  • Seated knee to chest stretches: Whilst sitting in your chair, lift one knee up to your chest so you can reach it with your hands. Use both hands to pull the knee, bending it upward, placed against your chest until you feel a slight stretch in the lumbar region and at the back of your hip. Hold the position for around 15 to 20 seconds, then repeat it three to five times with each knee
  • Seated spinal rotations: Cross your arms over your chest whilst seated, then grab your shoulders. From there, rotate your upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right. You should feel a tension on both sides of your lower back as it stretches out

Desk exercises

  • Under-desk elliptical or exercise bike: Kill two birds with one stone and get an elliptical or exercise bike under the desk to work those leg muscles
  • Chair balance disc: This is great for standing or sitting. For balancing when standing, stand on one foot on the balance disc for 30 seconds, then switch feet and repeat
  • Leg lifts and ankle weights: Type away up top and let your legs get some exercise in for you below the desk. Strap on some leg weights and do some leg raises every hour or so
  • Exercise ball: Bring in an exercise ball to act as your chair for a while, and engage your core, this will also help with good posture 
  • Seat squeeze: Multitask away by sorting your emails and doing a glute exercise. Squeeze the buttocks and hold for 5-10 seconds before releasing. Repeat this until you feel your glutes tire
  • Desk squat: When using a standing desk, add a squat into the mix. Or, even if you’re sitting, take a squat break. Bend the knees slightly so the thighs are almost parallel to the ground, and as you bend down, raise your arms straight up towards the computer screen. Keep knees together and aligned and hold for 15 seconds and release. Repeat for four or five reps
  • Thigh squeezes: Use a ream of paper or a sealed package of paper to place between the knees when sat down. Press the legs inward and continue squeezing the paper ream for 30-60 seconds; this will work your thighs

Healthy snacks and hydration

As tempting as it may be to have a drawer full of goodies, if you’re working on how to stay fit at your desk, then don’t put all that hard work to waste by scoffing too much chocolate and sweets. Review your snacking options; opt for fruit, protein bars, boiled eggs, carrots and dip, nuts and rye bread. 

We should be drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day – water, low-fat milk and sugar-free drinks all count. Make brews to up your water intake and have your own water bottle on the desk to stay hydrated throughout the day. Water can also help you burn more calories and can even help with suppressing appetite if consumed before meals – perfect for curbing cravings.

As well as your desk exercises, stretches, walking breaks and healthier snacks, you should also increase your activity levels outside of work. Plan in a run, walk or workout at the weekend, or when you’re cleaning, break out into a sweat, dancing to your favourite tunes. Now that we are at our desks more, it’s so important to keep active whenever we can.