Even if you're seated all day, you can incorporate stretches and exercises into your daily routine.

By Kristine Hansen
April 14, 2021
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We all know that sitting for hours on end isn't a physical workout, but for those of us who work a desk job, it's a daily requirement. "Taking the time to move your body during the day will actually help you be more thoughtful, clear-headed and efficient," says Kate Hanley, personal-development coach, mindfulness expert, and author of Stress Less, A Year of Daily Calm and The Anytime, Anywhere Chill Guide ($6.50, amazon.com).

woman working using standing desk
Credit: Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Short of answering emails and taking calls from a treadmill, what are quick, easy ways to remain active during the work day that still allow you to nail deadlines and show up for Zoom calls? Here's an easy one, says certified health and wellness coach and trainer Lynell Ross: "Make a point of standing up while talking on the phone." Business still gets done and you can even incorporate leg kicks or shoulder rolls. Ahead, Ross and other experts share more of their sound advice.

Plan walks.

Just like you put meetings and lunch dates on your calendar, assign a time to walk with a friend who works or lives nearby—or embark solo. Put an alarm on your smartphone or create a "meeting" in Outlook. Without a designated time, it gets swallowed up in the to-do list. "Even if it's a five-minute walk, the accountability piece is huge," says Hanley. "We need appointments and reminders to pull us out of the screen-time vortex."

Work in an office? "Consider getting up and asking colleagues questions rather than simply sending emails," says certified fitness trainer Jeanette DePatie, or take calls on a smartphone while walking.

Work stretches into your day.

After you hit "send" on that very important email, cleanse your mind to prepare you for the next task. "Stand up and do some stretches," says Hanley. "It's going to wipe your slate clean. The urge in that moment is 'now, I can go on social media' but that's not going to refresh your mind." Hanley suggests two stretches seated at your desk. By stacking your forearms and resting your forehead on top, "it opens your shoulders. You can focus on feeling your belly move into your thighs as you exhale," says Hanley. "It's also an amazing reboot for your brain." For the second exercise, hold onto the end of the desk with outstretched hands while in a swivel chair. Lift your feet up and swivel from left to right. This amazing back stretch, "will massage your adrenal glands, which is our stress glands," adds Hanley.

Even if you work near others, small hand weights aren't very disruptive. "Do bicep curls, triceps kickbacks and overhead presses," says Ross. She also suggests chair crunches: "Sit at the edge of your chair and lean back and forth eight times. You will be surprised how much better you feel."

Dance, dance, dance.

"If you are working at home, I'm a big fan of the two-song dance party," says DePatie. "Every 30 minutes or so, get up and dance to two of your favorite tunes. This is a great way for the whole family to stay active. Just yell 'dance party' and all meet in the living room or front yard for a family-wide boogie down."

Introduce new eye movements.

Staring at one or more screens all day long stresses the eyes out. But in lieu of easing into a nap with a lavender-scented eye pillow and soothing music, there's an easy fix. "Remind yourself to look at something out the window or across the room," says Hanley. It might be as simple as swiveling around to view the opposite wall and abide by the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds). Another tip: hang a framed photograph or work of art that inspires you in an area not easily viewable while seated at your desk.

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