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April 16, 2014

Take a stand on sitting: how to fit exercise into a busy day

We all know that exercise is good for our physical health, and many of us know that it can be good for our mental health too. What you might not already know is that it’s also good for your performance at work.


study conducted at Elon University found that people saw an improvement in their cognitive ability (your capacity to think and solve problems) after exercise. The same study found that it helps to improve your energy levels too. (So ‘I’m tired’ isn’t a good enough excuse!)

The good news is that it doesn’t even have to be high-intensity exercise. According to a University of Georgia study, regular, low-intensity exercise can increase energy levels by 20% and decrease fatigue by 65% in sedentary people.

Don’t think you’re off the hook if you exercise regularly outside work, either. Sitting at your desk without moving for long periods is bad for you, even if you move around more at other times.


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Staying still for long periods means your muscles burn less fat and your blood flows more sluggishly, which can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and leave you feeling stiff. Prolonged periods of stillness slow the flow of fresh blood and oxygen to the brain too, so your brain function will eventually slow – leaving you less than sharp.

Here are our tips for getting more movement into your day, no  matter how busy your calendar, and whether you don’t move at all, or just need to make sure you get up from your desk more often:

    1. Start small, be consistent – start by setting small goals and being consistent in tackling them. You’re more likely to give up if you set yourself a goal that’s too ambitious, so if you’re starting from zero, walking for 30 minutes a day is a more realistic goal than running a marathon.


  1. Exercise with family and friends – fitting exercise into a busy schedule is hard. One way to make sure your exercise doesn’t eat into social time is to exercise with friends or family – a walk or bike ride is sociable and gets you moving.
  2. Try a meeting on the move – try having a meeting while you’re walking or running. This works best for informal meetings and catch-ups, or creative/problem-solving situations, where taking notes isn’t essential. The change of scenery (and pace) can really help to get your mind working.
  3. Make it part of your commute – walk, run or cycle to work if you can. If not, try getting off the train, bus, tube or subway a stop early, or parking your car further away from the office.
  4. Use your lunch break – use your lunch break as an opportunity for a quick walk, or if you’re feeling energetic, a run or a trip to the gym.
  5. Try a standing desk – standing desks have become a bit of a trend in recent years. Standing is better for you than sitting, so this can be a good way to reap the benefits without having to change your schedule.
  6. Take regular exercise breaks – set an alarm to make sure you take a walk or do some stretches every couple of hours. Even a quick five-minute break will get you moving and give you a boost.
  7. Try an app – apps like 7 Minute Workout and Workout Scheduler can help you by providing a quick workout that’s easy to fit into your day, or give you inspiration for some exercises to fit into any spare time you find in your day.

Do you think you sit still for too long? How do you fit exercise and movement into your working day?

Image credit: photoverulam