10 Ways to Create an Active Lifestyle at Work

Because new studies show that even regular exercise can’t save you from a sedentary lifestyle.

“A man who sits 60 hours at a desk job but still works out for 45 minutes a day five times a week still has a sedentary lifestyle.” (NBC)

Let that sink in for a minute.

I happen to have a desk job, but I also exercise frequently. Could those 1-hour torture sessions I put myself through 4–5 days a week (otherwise known as CrossFit) really not be enough to ensure me a slot into the “active lifestyle” category? How unfair!

Exercising is good, but it’s just not enough.

Marc Hamilton, physiologist and professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, found that the amount of time you exercise and the amount of time you spend on your butt are completely separate factors for heart-disease risk. And your heart is not the only thing that pays the price from too much sitting– your hips, spine, shoulders, and other various body parts all suffer the consequences.

So what’s the solution? Non-Exercise Activity. Essentially, it’s the activity that you are able to add into your daily routine, outside of the gym.

“Regularly exercising is not the same as being active,” says Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Hamilton’s colleague at Pennington. “A person may hit the gym every day, but if he’s sitting a good deal of the rest of the time, he’s probably not leading an overall active life.”

In a 2007 report, University of Missouri scientists said that people with the highest levels of non-exercise activity (but little to no actual “exercise”) burned significantly more calories a week than those who ran 35 miles a week but accumulated only a moderate amount of non-exercise activity.

Though I do technically have a desk job, I’m fortunate. My company’s whole mission is to help people lead happier, healthier lives, so it’s probably not a huge surprise that supporting an active, “anti-sedentary” office culture (which we help our clients create) starts with our internal team.

Still, I recognize that not all workplaces are as supportive or as knowledgeable about the ways you can promote an active lifestyle for employees. So, below, I’ve outlined 10 easy and creative ways that you or your employees can add some activity to your day:

  1. Have walking meetings. Have daily huddles or weekly one-on-ones? Take this scheduled time as an opportunity to encourage your colleagues or employees to take a lap!
  2. Invest in a standing desk, or make your own. Don’t have the funds right now for a new desk? Try stacking books or other office props for your very own makeshift standing desk. Get crafty!
  3. Set an alarm. Set an alarm or reminder on your phone to get up once an hour. Try “Sit for 60, Move for 3” or come up with your own rhythm!
  4. Walk to lunch. Bringing your lunch to work might provide financial benefits, but it’s not an excuse to sit at your desk and surf the web through lunch. Take a walk!
  5. Create a buddy system. Having a friend at work is great for lots of reasons, but this kind of accountability is one of the best benefits: find a buddy or two, and commit to regular walks, or other activities, together. (Burpees in the breakroom?!)
  6. Deskercise. (Check out Greatist’s 33 Smart Ways to Deskercise at Work)
  7. Clean. Have some down time? Clean out a cabinet or a storage closet. Burn calories and impress your boss/teammates.
  8. Pick up the pace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines moderate aerobic activity as “anything that makes your heart beat faster.” That means a wide variety of daily activities can become exercise if you do them faster or more intensely.
  9. Stretch. Start a mid-morning stretch group (At Spire Labs, we do a Mindfulness & Mobility session, once a week!)
  10. Take the long way. Take the long way when you have a few moments to spare. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from your office, or use a restroom that’s across the building, instead of close to your desk.

So remember: While exercise is always a good thing, non-exercise activity is just as crucial (if not more so!) for leading a long, healthy, and active life.

Want more ideas? Shoot me an email at amber[at]spire.me. These tips are a great place to start, but if you’re looking to really change the culture of your company as a whole, let me know — that’s what Spire is all about!

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