You may have read the headlines like: “Sitting is the new smoking…” “30 minutes of exercise can’t overcome a sedentary lifestyle…” If you work a desk job in 2021, is it even possible to stay fit?
After all, sitting too much has been shown to contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, and other chronic illnesses. It could even lead to 40% increased risk of early death.
If that weren’t enough, it can be more difficult to lose weight and stay fit if you sit at a desk for upwards of 8, 10, or even more hours per day. This is especially true if you’re surrounded by sugary snacks or junk foods from a nearby breakroom, vending machine, or friendly co-worker’s desk.
It is, however, possible to stay active, eat well, and even lose weight even with a desk job. How do you stay fit with a desk job?
Top 10 Tips for Staying Fit While Working a Desk Job in 2021:
Just because you’re at a desk doesn’t mean you have to be seated. There’s a wide array of standing desks available. You can even convert a countertop or dresser for the duty if you have a home office. You don’t even have to stand all day. You can try standing for 30 minutes followed by sitting for 30 minutes. Or set some activities as standing and others for remaining seated. For example, during meetings and phone calls, stand. When researching on the computer, sit. When checking emails or messages, stand. When typing up reports, sit. Just find a rhythm that works for you and strive to stand for at least half the day.
When sitting slumped over a computer screen all day, the body can begin to ache. Shoulders, neck, upper back, and even hips get stiff and uncomfortable.
Take time throughout the day to stretch and open up your spine, abdominals, back, and shoulders. Some good stretches to add throughout the day are:
- Toe reaches/hamstring stretches (either standing or seated)
- Figure 4 stretches
- Bent knee stretches
- Neck rotations
- Shoulder stretches
- Shoulder rolls
- Upper back stretches
- Eagle arms
- Chest stretches
- Seated torso twists
- Overhead reach to twists
- Triceps stretches
- Wrist stretches
Incorporate Desk Exercises
Can you exercise while sitting at your desk? The answer is absolutely yes. In addition to your regular exercise plan, sneak in some exercise “snacks” at your desk throughout the day. Some good examples include:
- Chair triceps dips (just make sure you use a stationary, not rolling, chair)
- Arm circles
- Arm pulses
- Wall, desk, or floor push ups
- Chair squats
- Wall sits
- Standing hamstring pulses and/or leg curls
- Leg planks
- Calf raises
- Desk mountain climbers
- Seated crunches
- Side twists
- Seated leg lifts (bent and straight)
- Ankle alphabets
What’s more, because these movements get the blood moving and oxygen flowing, they can also lead to increased energy and productivity throughout the day.
Set a couple of times throughout the day to remind you to get up and move—at the very least, get up and walk around the office to get some blood flowing into your back, shoulders, and legs. Or try balancing on one leg at a time at your standing desk.
Drink lots of water
Most of us don’t drink nearly enough water throughout the day. Yet being dehydrated can lead to brain fog, fatigue, and headaches. It can also hinder weight loss. And, many people confuse thirst for hunger and eat when they aren’t really hungry.
While water consumption recommendations vary a lot, one simple recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. So, for example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you would drink 80 ounces of water. If you weigh 200 pounds, you would drink 100 ounces.
The simplest way to ensure you get enough water is to have a refillable water bottle on your desk to sip on throughout the day.
Take walking meetings and breaks
How do I not be sedentary with a desk job? One of the best tips is to take walking breaks and/or meetings throughout the day instead of sitting in a dreary conference room. Brainstorming sessions are a great time to move.
You can walk even more by parking farther away from your building, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or taking the long way around the office to the bathroom, breakroom, copy machine, or your boss’s office.
Don’t just crash on the couch at the end of the day either. Enjoy an evening stroll, walk the dog, or try some gentle stretches to help energize your evening when you get home.
Yes, you’re staying more active during the day, but you’ll still want to ensure you both get your heart pumping with cardiovascular exercise and your muscle burning with resistance training at least a few times each week. Set a time and place, in advance, for your workouts—before work, at lunch, or after work in the evening. Whichever time works best for you—and that you can consistently maintain—is the right time to exercise.
That doesn’t mean you have to join a gym either. With at-home bodyweight movements, resistance bands, or a set of dumbbells, you can build strength, burn calories, and enjoy fitness—without a long commute to the gym or the monthly cost. (Of course, if you enjoy the classes or connections you’ve made at the gym, by all means, continue to go!)
Eat to live, not live to eat
There’s a saying that 80% of weight loss comes from the kitchen. For good reason. If you’re asking, “How can I stay slim while working in an office?” ensuring you’re fueling your body with healthy whole foods like lean proteins, abundant vegetables (like leafy greens), and healthy fats is job number 1. Plan a healthy lunch, and then ensure you have healthy snacks to help you power through the day while avoiding temptation. Good choices include protein shakes, fruit with nuts (or a small serving of nut butter), or veggies with hummus or a cottage cheese dip.
When you do eat, slow down and focus on the food, so you can better assess your hunger and fullness cues. In other words, eat mindfully.
Having support and accountability are two of the most important tools when it comes to staying on track with health or weight-loss lifestyle goals. Find a friend, co-worker, partner, or even an internet forum with like-minded individuals. You can provide encouragement, share recipe or exercise ideas, and stay on schedule with your workout plans.
Feel free to fidget
If you’re sharing some office space, you may not be comfortable doing the desk exercises mentioned above. But that doesn’t mean you need to sit still. Fidgeting throughout the day can increase calories burned by up to 29% when seated and up to 38% when standing. That can lead to an extra 100 to 1,000 extra calories being burned throughout the day.
Go ahead and bounce your legs, tap your toes, turn your pen or pencil in your hand. These micromovements are still good for you. (And they may even help boost attention by calming or energizing you as needed.) What’s more, research found that women who fidgeted more had a lower rate of mortality, even if they spent long hours seated.
Conclusion: 10 Tips for Staying Fit While Working a Desk Job 2021
Losing weight can be a challenge, especially with a desk job. Yet, it is possible. On top of helping you stay slim and healthy, sneaking in more activity throughout the day can also help you avoid afternoon slumps as well and as the stiffness, aches, and pains so common with our modern sedentary lifestyles. It can also lead to greater energy, productivity, and mood—a win-win for you, your co-workers, and even your boss.
One simple “rule” to help is the 20-8-2 rule. That is, sit for no more than 20 minutes, stand in one position for no more than 8, and move for at least 2 minutes every half hour.