How to keep active at work

How to keep active at work

Staying fit while working in a sedentary job can be a challenge. We are not lazy, but most of us are super-busy. Our days get filled with commuting to work, meetings, emails, phone calls, direct messages, texts and more and we sit all the time. We are so busy that we mislead ourselves into thinking we’re active during the day.

By staying physically active at work you will increase your productivity, reduce your stress, improve your health and overall make you a happier person; these are just a few of the benefits of exercising at work.

Here are a few ways and ideas to help you stay active at work from a physical point of view:

1. Walk or ride to work

Firstly, choosing to ride or walk to work is going to save you money on petrol, tolls, car upkeep and parking. Second, by cycling or walking you improve your health, fitness and mental outlook.

If you work a long way from work and you have to drive to the office, try to park as far as possible from the building. A short, brisk walk will boost your energy.

2. Offer to do the coffee run

If the walk or bike ride into work didn't give you enough energy and you still need coffee, why not volunteer for the coffee run.

3. Exercise at the desk

Even once you have started the working day at your desk, you can remain active. Here are a few ideas on how to exercise at your workstation:

• Do seated leg lifts

• Stretch your wrists

• Get up every hour

4. Swap your desk for a sit-standing desk

A standing desk makes it possible for you to switch from a seated position to a standing one at the click of a button.

But please keep in mind that if you suddenly go from sitting all day to standing all day, there is a high chance of developing back, leg or foot pain and strain; it is recommended that you ease into it by starting with 30 to 60 minutes a day and gradually increasing the time you spend standing up. (Harvard Health Publications, 2016 ¹). Read more about how to switch to a stand up desk.

5. Why not try an active chair?

There are different types of active chairs available on the market, from Pilates or balance balls to motion stools and active seats. Active sitting forces your body to keep moving in order to stay in a normal seated position. This will reduce serious health risks and strengthen your abdomen as well as other muscles, thus reducing back strain. (Wikipedia, 2017 ²)

6. Have standing or walking meetings

A walking meeting is exactly what it sounds like! It’s a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of the usual places where meetings are held like an office, conference room or coffee shop.

As a recommendation, when you hold a walking meeting it works best with a maximum of three people. It’s also worth letting the attendees know in advance that you are planning to hold a walking meeting so they can come prepared.

If the meeting has more than three people, then why not try a standing meeting. A standing meeting is a meeting in which attendees typically participate while standing. The discomfort of standing for extended periods is intended to keep the meetings short and to the point. Enjoy the experience of bringing work together with a bit of exercise.

7. Walk instead of calling or emailing

Why not use every opportunity to get up and walk? Instead of emailing or calling colleagues, go and talk to them in person. The steps will soon add up, and it gives you the extra benefit of having some social interaction with your colleagues.

8. Use the printer/scanner farthest from your desk

It might seem counterintuitive but if you use the printer farthest away it’s a great excuse for a short walk. That’s not the only opportunity for exercise when printing. Let's say you have a large document that needs to be printed or scanned. Why stand by the printer when you could be doing calf raises? Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, press up onto the tippy toes, pause at the top, then lower back down. Repeat for three sets of 12-15 reps, until the printing or scanning is finished. (Greatist, 2014 ³)

9. Get moving at lunch time

Are you used to eating lunch while staring at a computer screen? Instead of sitting at your desk and eating, leave the office and go somewhere else to eat your meal. This will also help you feel more energetic and productive for the second half of the day.

10. Take the stairs

If you have the option to choose between a lift and stairs, try to use the stairs at least once a day. Also, did you know that you burn ten calories by only going one floor up? (Urbansome, 2015 ⁴)

11. Start an office fitness challenge

Why not get everyone involved in being more active at work? A bit of competition will help everyone perform better.

One idea for a fitness challenge can be The Last Man Standing: if everyone in the office has a height adjustable desk or workstation, have a competition to see who can stand the longest. At the end of the month the winner is the one with the longest accumulated standing time.

So let's get active at work! Just don't forget the all-important H2O after your workout!


  1. Harvard Health Publications (2016) The truth behind standing desks [online] accessed from: [accessed August 2017]
  2. Wikipedia (2017) Active sitting [online] accessed from: [accessed August 2017]
  3. Greatist (2014) Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise at Work [online] accessed from: [accessed August 2017]
  4. Urbansome (2015) How Many Calories Does Walking Up The Stairs Burn? [online] accessed from: [accessed August 2017]

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