Striving for Greater Fitness At Work


A few weeks ago, I hiked the Milford Track in New Zealand over three days and reflected on the journey in this blog.  I observed that “less time at the computer, and more hours walking and building stronger muscles BEFORE my NZ trip” would have allowed me to enjoy the glorious surroundings more.

I also referred to Lisa’s assessment that “Research shows that those who move, do better, achieve more, and feel better and more satisfied.” In particular, one study cited by the Harvard School of Public Health blog where researchers surveyed the dietary and activity habits of  50,000 middle-aged women for six years concluded:

… that for every two hours the women spent watching television each day, they had a 23 percent higher risk of becoming obese and 14 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. Interestingly, it didn’t matter if the women were avid exercisers: The more television they watched, the more likely they were to gain weight or develop diabetes, regardless of how much leisure-time activity and walking they did. Long hours of sitting at work also increased the risk of obesity and diabetes. (italics mine)

What scared me about this report is that even when women (and men) exercise vigorously early and/or late in the day, it is not enough to offset the decline in health prompted by sitting for hours. “The bottom line: move more and sit less” endorsed in the studies cited by the Harvard School of Public Health is pushing me to reconsider how I can improve and maintain my fitness, and work more effectively, too.


egg-timer-154763_640In 2014 we discussed in this blog how to maintain focus by punctuating our work with regular, short breaks.  A specific method for minimizing distraction and interruptions (and increasing movement) is the Pomodoro technique advanced by Francesco Cirillo. It calls for intense 25 minute work periods. An egg timer (in the shape of the Pomodoro aka tomato) rings at the end of 25 minutes to release the person for up to five minutes to do something else to “disconnect” from the work. Something else could mean standing up and walking around the room, going for a drink of water or doing “some deep breathing or stretching exercises.”

It is important that the person not continue actively thinking about the project in order to let the brain do its own behind-the-scene assimilation of the previous 25 minutes.  At the end of four-25 minute periods, Cirillo recommends a longer break of 20-30 minutes to do a walk or other physical activity.    He also provides a record-keeping method to retain critical needs  that surface in the middle of a “pomodoro” period without losing one’s momentum on the current task.


Lisa brought us the Breath of Joy exercise in her reflection on the International Forum on Women in E-Learning Conference.  The Breath of Joy could be the right thing to do during a quick break from a pomodoro. Another option is to follow Rodney Yee’s video below to stretch and regain flexibility, strength, and improved posture at the desk.  It takes less than four minutes and it makes a difference. I tried it while writing this blog and loved the way it made me feel. Many other free, compact stretching and exercise videos can be found on YouTube. WebMD also offers 60-second aerobics for “Exercise at Your Desk” options.


The BBC Magazine has asserted that “Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history.” One way to get around sitting so much is to stand more.  The BBC news article cited research proving that standing had favorable impacts on blood glucose levels and calories burned, even going back to research comparing the heart health advantages bus conductors (standing) had over bus drivers (sitting) in the 1950s in London. An equally interesting and less formal look at the advantages of standing over sitting is described by FAST COMPANY web producer Cia Bernales when she experimented with standing at her desk in 2013.  A year later, she says that she wouldn’t go back to sitting at a desk again.


Many times I will walk around while on phone calls.  Another way to move is to do staff meetings on the go.  Beth Kanter has written about “hosting effective walking meetings” here.  She singles out five practical tips for increasing the amount of walking she and others do at work.  These include:

1. Make a list of all the meetings in your work.  These might be virtual or face to face.  Now identify which ones could be converted into walking meetings.

2. Think about your goals.  Since walking increases creativity, walking meetings are great for brainstorming and problem-solving.

3. Let people know in advance.  A heads-up for people to wear the right clothing and shoes is definitely in order.

4. Planning and preparation.  Naturally there will be an agenda and sequenced activities including stretching and biobreaks.  Taking notes immediately after the meeting when ideas are still fresh is also good.

5. The actual walk.  Choose a route that allows the group to walk safely and with good hearing capability for the alloted time.

Kanter also cites the site as a great resource for planning and leading talking-while-walking meetings. Sometimes, walking solo will break open thinking logjams that you encounter at work. Or you can call a friend to get in social time on your walk, too.


Sugarman_resting_IMG_1035[1Walking my dog(s) is a favorite exercise for me.  However, my dogs are quite happy lying on the couch in my office for hours at a time.   Maybe your dog will do more to motivate you to stay active throughout the day than mine do!

What other ideas do you have for walking more, standing more, stretching more, and sitting less during your work day?  What fitness routines have you tried and would like to recommend to others to build into their work day?

Fit computer woman picture purchased from freedigitalphotos

Pomodoro/egg timer picture courtesy of OpenClips at Pixabay


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