Tips for staying active at your desk job

Working at a desk job

Did you know that Albertans are sitting for an average of 9.5 hours per weekday? That’s more than half our waking day! Research has shown negative health effects associated with the amounts of sedentary behaviours, sleep, and physical activity we engage in. Canada has recently released 24-hour movement guidelines around these three areas to encourage healthy lifestyle habits for all ages. Their core recommendations include:

  • Moving more: At least 150 cumulative minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week as well as more light physical activity where possible.
  • Reducing sedentary time: Limiting the amounts we are sedentary in the day as well as breaking up our sedentary periods into smaller segments.
  • Sleeping better: Getting 7-9 hours of consistent quality sleep.

Positive changes in these areas have shown to decrease the risk of chronic diseases and improve mental and physical health outcomes for many individuals.

So, what are some ways you can start to implement some of these recommendations?

5 tips for staying active at your desk job

Take short microbreaks

Microbreaks can be anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes with a focus on movement or recovery. If you have a few minutes in between meetings, you have time for a microbreak! Here are a few examples of what a microbreak could look like:

    • Unlocking the chair to temporarily recline and unload tension on the back.
    • Resting on the sides of our hands when not actively typing or using the mouse.
    • Doing some simple recovery stretches for the neck, shoulders, wrists, fingers, back, hips, you name it!
    • Encouraging circulation in the body if you’ve been static for too long: foot/ankle pumps, shoulder rolls, wrist circles, etc.
    • Standing up for a bit if you’ve been sitting, or vice versa. Our bodies need changes in position often!
    • Giving the eyes a rest from the computer screens by closing them or focusing on something in the distance.
    • Incorporating a short mindfulness exercise to help refresh and refocus.

Go for a walk

We should be looking to get away from our desks at least every hour, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.

    • Walk/pace indoors while on a phone call that doesn’t require looking at a computer screen.
    • Walk around your neighbourhood. Some people replicate their previous morning and afternoon commutes with a short walk instead, which can be a great way to start and end off your workday. Walking can also be a great lunch break option as well!
    • Look for opportunities for extra steps: Use a bathroom on a different floor, strategically place the printer in a different room, drop off the mail at a farther mailbox, etc.
    • If you are in a formal office space: Safely chat with a co-worker instead of sending an email or coordinate a distanced walking meeting with a colleague.

Get those exercises in

Working from home has allowed some of us more flexibility in our day to roll out a yoga mat or pull out some resistance bands to get more active. Not to mention, we can do this from the comfort of our own home!

    • Take an online fitness class: From boxing to barre, there are tons of accessible options out there that range in exercise type, difficulty, and duration! Find what works best for you!
    • Do your rehab exercises! Set aside a few minutes to get in at least one set of exercises every hour and you’ll have likely completed your daily home program by the end of the day, not to mention you’ll likely impress your therapist the next time you visit them!

Drink lots of water

Not only do you reap the benefits of staying hydrated, you’ll be more likely to get up and move to refill the drink as well as empty the bladder! On that note, challenge yourself to use a bathroom on a different floor if you have that option!

Involve others

Chances are, you are not the only one feeling the effects of a sedentary job/lifestyle. Challenge your teammates and family members at home to incorporate healthy habits throughout the day as well! Lead a group stretch session during a meeting, encourage teammates to stand up or walk during calls, start a wellness challenge within your group, stretch with your family, etc. Involving others helps to keep us all more accountable to our goals, not to mention the social benefits that come along as well!

It can all start with just one baby step! We hope you can try to incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily life and would love to hear how you do!

Picture of Rachel McKenzie, MSc, BKin, CAT(C), AE

Rachel McKenzie, MSc, BKin, CAT(C), AE

Rachel is an Athletic Therapist and Associate Ergonomist from Calgary, Alberta. She is a Principal Consultant at MoveSafe, a company dedicated to reducing musculoskeletal injury through education and integration of wellness and ergonomics principles. Rachel also provides athletic therapy services for the Alberta Soccer Association, Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, and Netball Alberta.

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