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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Move It! 5 Simple Ways to Get More Exercise at Work

Move It! 5 Simple Ways to Get More Exercise at Work
Credit: Lars Zahner/Shutterstock

You already know that sitting all day at work isn't good for your health, but how do you combat the negative health effects of a desk job? Sure, you can head to the gym after work, but when you don't have time to focus purely on your fitness, you can still get in a little exercise in the office — without even breaking a sweat.

Here are five simple ways to get moving at work.

If you work close enough, ditch your car or whatever form of public transportation you use to get to and from the office. Instead, try walking or riding your bike to work. Rather than sitting on a bus or in your car for the entirety of your commute and then sitting at your desk for the rest of the workday, biking or walking to work can help you get some extra movement into your day without tacking on a lot of extra time.

Plus, it may even help improve your mental health in the process. A study from the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School in England found that commuters who stopped driving and instead walked or biked to the office were both less stressed and better able to concentrate at work, according to HealthDay. The study also found that a long car commute to work has a negative effect on well-being, but a physically active commute makes people feel better.

Are you an elevator regular? If you have the option, try taking the stairs instead. If you work on the top floor of a high-rise building, of course, you don't have to take the stairs all the way, but don't be afraid to get off the elevator a few stops early and walk the rest of the way up or down. It's a small change, but it can leave a big, lasting impact on your health. And you don't have to limit yourself to taking the stairs on the way in or out of the office — if you're feeling restless and need to take a short break, try walking up and down the stairs for a few minutes to get even more exercise in.

Not only is taking the stairs a way to get more movement into the workday, it's also a much more effective way to burn calories than simply walking (although walking is important, too). Harvard Medical School studies found that walking up stairs burns calories three times faster than simply walking on a flat surface, according to Livestrong.com. [5 Jobs for Health and Fitness Lovers ]

Make sure you're not spending all of your 8-plus hour work day sitting at your desk – get up and take short walk breaks every hour. Try setting an alarm on your phone or at your computer to remind you to get up — you can also use this time to remind yourself to drink water if you have trouble staying hydrated — and walk around the office. You can also get in extra walking time by taking the long way to the bathroom or to the break room.

Walking may not seem like the most effective exercise, especially if you're used to doing serious aerobic workouts at the gym, but it actually comes with a lot of health benefits. According to Harvard Medical School, a review of 18 different health studies found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events in those studied by 31 percent and cut down their risk of dying by 32 percent overall.

Along with walking laps around your office and taking the long way for bathroom breaks and meetings, you should take advantage of your lunch break to get an extra walk in. Even if you typically pack your lunch, going outside — especially if it's fair weather — will help you get a few extra minutes of exercise in and give you a change of scenery from the walls of your cubicle.

That outside time can help you stay less stressed at work, too. Studies found that spending time outside can help lower cortisol levels, and reduce stress, according to Business Insider.  Try going for a walk around the block to soak up some sun and get some fresh air and a little exercise. Even better if you can find a nice, relaxing spot outside to eat your lunch before heading back to work.

One easy way to strengthen your core while you work is to swap out your desk chair for a stability ball. According to Prevention.com, sitting on a stability ball requires muscle contractions in the core, hip and leg muscles, all of which contribute to muscle tone. (It doesn't happen in a regular chair, which requires no muscle activity.) Plus, it can help your posture if you make sure you use the right form.

Jessica Matthews, assistant professor exercise at Miramar College in San Diego, told Prevention that sitting on the stability ball all day could have negative health effects too due to increased pressure on the lower back, but alternating between your chair and the stability ball could help improve your health. Prevention recommends using the stability ball for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and making sure you use the correct size stability ball for your height — 45 cm if you're under 5 feet, 55 cm if you're between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 7 inches tall, and 65 cm if you're over 5 foot 8 inches.

Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.