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Getting to the gym 4 to 5 hours a week is fantastic, but remember gym time is only a segment of your day and an even smaller one of your week. Practicing healthy habits during the long workday can have a just as big an impact on your health and fitness.
  • Erik Borenstein

40 Hours a Week at a Desk? Get Moving!

As technology has made our lives easier, we find more and more of our jobs to be behind desks on computers, phones, and doing paperwork. Sadly, sitting for prolonged periods has negative effects on your health. It has been shown that the decrease in physical activity in the workplace has contributed to the rise in the obesity epidemic. A 14-year study conducted by the American cancer society concluded that those who sit for greater than 6 hours per day had a higher mortality rate than those who sat less. Prolonged time spent sitting has been shown to have metabolic consequences, and may influence things like triglycerides, cholesterol, and resting blood pressure which are all markers of obesity, cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Along with that, prolonged sitting from desk jobs is also related to chronic neck and low back pain. Is there any hope? Of course there is! Here are some awesome ideas to help you stay awake, alert, and create some blood flow even while sitting for 6 to 8 hours a day.

Water Breaks!

Firstly, skinny your coffee! Many desk job workers are also coffee fanatics. It’s incredible to learn that some specialized coffees from Starbucks can pack up to a whopping 400 calories and 9 grams of fat! (That’s more calories than a McChicken sandwich!) Try a coffee “ritual” like this: Have a glass of water in the am, followed by a cup of coffee, sandwiched by another glass of water. Continue to drink water throughout the day using your ritualistic coffee breaks as tools to ensure you drink at least six glasses of water during the day!


If you live close to your workplace, walking to work could be a good idea. Plan a safe route with plenty of sidewalks and well-lit areas. Also, pack a comfortable bag with extra fluids, weather gear, and your work attire to change into when you get there. Or…


Also a good choice for those within close proximity to their workplace and a bit quicker than walking. My brother used his commute to school to start off his fitness routine by completing his 3.5-mile commute on a bike.

Keep Moving!

Once you get to work, do you take the elevator or escalator? Try the stairs! You could burn an extra 20-40 calories per day with just one flight of stairs. Be advised, you might want to go to the water fountain before letting your coworkers see you huffing and puffing!

Hunger Control

Desk jobs often are the hub of unhealthy food choices, with their soda machines and free doughnut days. Science has shown time and time again that the real key to weight loss/gain is calories. Here are some tips to easily cut unnecessary calories at work. Eating a good breakfast will control hunger and energy during the day. Skipping this important meal will leave you starving by lunch, making you prone to making unhealthy food choices and wreck your metabolism. Look for high-fiber, high protein oatmeals and cereals. If you don’t have time in the morning, try a breakfast meal bar or shake to eat on the go.

Bring lunch as often as you can. The easiest way to do this could be to buy a bunch of bags of ready-made salad, low-cal dressing, and croutons along with your favorite source of protein and fat-free yogurt. You could even leave it at work in the fridge. That way you don’t have to fuss with preparing a meal each day and turning to unhealthy, quick alternatives. Some people really like the health-conscious prepared frozen meals and stock them in the work fridge as well. Just be sure to find ones that you enjoy and will fill you up.

Plan for meals out. Just because you want to stay fit doesn’t mean you have to skip lunch out with coworkers. Look up the restaurant you are going to ahead of time. Most places have their nutrition facts online. You may be surprised; for instance, a McDonalds McChicken sandwich has more calories and fat than their cheeseburger! If you are going to a sit-down restaurant, portions are often unnecessarily large. Ask for a take out box and plan on eating half of the meal and saving the rest for the next day’s lunch.

Meet and Greet!

The easiest way to make your sedentary job better for you is to make it less sedentary! Follow these simple steps to put a few more steps in your day. Meet face-to-face: Instead of calling a coworker, emailing, or sending an instant message, why not get up and meet face-to-face? This is an easy way to put a few more steps into your day and unchain you from your desk! Make trips away from the desk: Send that document to a farther printer to get a few more steps in your day. Use a farther copier. Use a small water cup or coffee mug so you have to make more trips to fill it. Don’t use a trash can in your office, force yourself to get up and use a central one. Stand when you can: Your body burns approximately 100 calories an hour just by standing! Going to be on a long phone call? Why not stand? Better yet, add some steps and pace a bit. If you like to make notes to yourself, position a whiteboard up so you have to stand up to write on it. Same with your calendar.

Remember, fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting to the gym 4 to 5 hours a week is fantastic, but remember, gym time is only a segment of your day and an even smaller one of your week. Practicing healthy habits during the long workday can have a just as big an impact on your health and fitness. You have the power to alter your body; you just have to envision yourself getting there!

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About the Author

Erik Borenstein

Erik Borenstein

Erik Borenstein is a certified personal trainer at Fitness Incentive.

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