Fitness Articles

5-Minute Power Boosters for the Office

Keep Your Body Fit and Your Mind Alert

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Office life. If you let it, it can suck the energy right out of you. Or, you can take advantage of your workspace to put pep in your step and become more productive than ever.

Your office—where you spend 30% to 50% of your waking hours—can work for you or against you, depending on how you use it.

"The workplace is the forgotten arena of the self-improvement battle," explains SparkPeople Coach, Joe Downie. "But it’s the place where people need help the most! Stress is a huge factor in how well you perform at work. It clouds your thinking and wears you down," continues Coach Joe. "Without that energy, you lose creativity, concentration and motivation." In return, he says, all you gain is irritability and tension.

Of course, the most effective way to fight low energy is with a heavy dose of thorough stretching, proper breathing, and good posture. "There are plenty of power boosters all around you. You don’t have to drop everything and run to the gym." In fact, there are dozens of ways you can reduce stress and increase energy—within 50 feet of the office. (No special equipment required.)

For starters, he suggests five minutes of mental or physical activity for every hour you spend at the computer. People who sit at desks and computers for hours on end are most prone to dwindling production from low energy.

Get Physical
  • Go to the office staircase and step up and down the bottom step (like step aerobics).  
  • Massage your own head and shoulders. Find trigger points of tension in the shoulders, jaw, and base of the skull. Hold pressure for 6-10 seconds.
  • Take two steps back from your desk and lean forward until you’re in an angled pushup position against the edge of your desk. (This will also work against a wall.) Do a couple quick sets of incline push-ups.
  • Lift 1-3 packs of printer paper in each hand. Curl them like weights or lift them over your head.
  • Close your door and shadow box for a few minutes. Try to imagine a stressor while you’re punching.
  • Start a pick up game of trashcan basketball! Create trick shots, or play against a coworker. A little friendly competition can go a long way.
  • Jumping jacks are a simple, quick way to pump you up. Try to increase your intensity (speed) and duration (minutes) to keep it challenging.
  • Go for a short walk around the office or outside around the block.
  • Stand up and stretch your muscles. Don’t forget your neck and wrists.
  • Lastly, Joe’s favorite office exercise—using a stress ball. Squeezing a stress ball relieves stress while strengthening the forearms and wrists for typing.
Go Mental
  • Do word puzzles. Crosswords, word finds—even a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Fill out a Mad Lib with your co-workers. A little laughter can improve your mood and decrease stress instantly.
  • Rearrange your office.
  • Switch hands with whatever you’re doing.
  • Draw something. Let your mind create.
  • Stand perfectly still for two minutes. Just Regroup.
  • Do some deep breathing exercises or quiet meditation.
  • Make an inkblot with a folded piece of paper and liquid ink. Have fun with what you see in the blot.
Staying energized and stress-free at work isn’t difficult. The key is finding reasons to stay out of your chair:
  • In the morning, take as long as possible before sitting down.
  • Forget the boardroom. Hold walking meetings.
  • Hand-deliver mail, memos and faxes.
  • Chat face-to-face instead of by email or phone.
  • Use a bathroom on the other side of the building or on another floor.
  • Have a lot of phone time? Buy a cordless phone and move around while talking.
  • Replace your chair with a stability ball. This helps you maintain good posture, and by balancing, you’re working your core muscles all day.
Taking care of yourself at the office is just one way fitness can help you in other parts of your life. All it takes is a few minutes at a time.

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Member Comments

  • Most of these things work best for younger people in casual setting. Not sure a law office, accounting bull pen etc would be as open to doing anything but work on work time. After all $$$ is made in billable hours.
  • Retired and just try to keep moving. When I was in a cubicle I made my own "door" - masking tape on the floor. Angle in to show door open. No angled tape door closed. Simple. But truly while I am not self conscious most of these things do require an actual office if you are working and a job where you could multi-task. My job didn't offer these luxuries. Options-wear wooden soled clogs if you walk a lot-hard to find but worth the effort. Great of posture. Get a weighted vest - 5 and 10 pounders. You move, you are also lifting weights. Avoid office gossip. Helps to stay positive and focused. My computer did not allow open internet access-interior firewall. We also had to check phones before coming in. Today's offices seem more fluid and permissive but also much less professional. Call me out of date and old fashioned.
  • These same ideas work well for me, retired and at home most of the day.
  • Thanks for this helpful list-- I am able to squeeze stress balls in each hand, without neglecting my duties--!
  • It may seem like a too simple to be true, but I have a 30 minute timer set on my cell phone. When it rings, I get up and move. I try to stay up for 30 minutes if I can but if I need to get back to the desk, I reset that timer and when it rings again my butt is back up and moving!
  • I do have a stability ball for a desk chair (on a wheeled base so I can utilize it the same as a chair and it doesn't escape when I stand up), and it doesn't really help my posture at all. I can slouch just fine on a ball.
    Where it makes a huge difference for me, is it puts less pressure on my lower back, reducing the back pain that can come from sitting too much (yay desk jobs).
    I've been standing up every time the phone rings lately, and occasionally getting up to do some squats or desk push-ups. Getting better at fitting in little bursts during the day!
  • I walk for my lunch break and encourage my coworkers to join me, though they rarely do. I have motivational messages posted to my work space to inspire me to stay on track, as the boss frequently buys both breakfast and lunch for his staff.
    Wall pushups, lunges, and squats can be done when taking a bathroom break - I also work in a common room so don't necessarily want to advertise my exercise!
  • Oh what I wouldn't give for an office door
  • Great article with some new, more practical ideas. I sit all day as well and often take lunch at my desk, I'm also in a high traffic area. While there are many ideas I can't do without an audience, there are still many that I can. There is always the bathroom to consider as well. Linger awhile longer and do some stretches, march in place, etc. Lately it's bothering my legs more and more as I sit so I've been making extra trips to the mailroom, using a small cup for water so I have to travel back and forth more often to re-fill it. If I sign for packages I deliver them instead of sending an e-mail notification. I've been standing longer organizing items before sitting down, rather than trying to reach so far, I get up and go around the desk to retrieve what I need. Stretching feel really good and I've been moving my legs under my desk in any manner that works at the time. The reams of paper really do work well. Coach Nicole has a short stretching video just for this purpose.

    Mentally, I take a break by doing a few min of word searches, or looking at my photos, surfing the internet for few minutes, etc.

    Bottom line, there is something you CAN do in your environment, IF you really want to.
  • Great article. But it's up to you how you plan it out at work. The boss don't watch twenty four seven.
  • I have an open cubicle and am always do little stretches here and there. Even directors have come by and never have I been told I'm being inappropriate (although I have been asked 'what the he$$ are you doing?'). You can do finger exercises, shoulder rolls, hold one leg up for 30 seconds then alter, and many are never noticed. I've done lunges even in the hall to the bathroom.

    Love the article and a great reminder.
  • My bosses used to throw a Nerf football around inside the office when the company was smaller.

    It's been a while but I find that you don't get in trouble if you involve the bosses in the goofing around. It works when you get caught with funny cat photos from the Internet all the time.

    Of course, my office is a bit more casual than the financial centers probably are.
  • Yes, not all of them are appropriate for everyone but many of them should be adaptable for each person. I don't have an office but we do have a one-at-a-time restroom at work so I do a lot of stretches and jumping jacks in there. I always take a walk around the block on my 15-minute break and sometimes on lunch.
    Even if you can't leave your desk you should be at least able to stand up for a minute or two at your desk or stretch your neck while doing something else.
    Yes, presenting it to your boss in the best way is better. You can kindly remind them that a few minutes of stretching is much better than a worker's comp claim for your stiff neck or carpal tunnel syndrome. (Ok that was snarky but you can find a nicer way to say it!)
  • I don't understand why people are trashing this list, unless they just really aren't ready to consider doing something new. True, not everyone has an office door... so pick something else on the list. My office doesn't have stairs, big whoop... pick something else on the list.

    I'm not the boss so I'll get in trouble. are you sure? no managers in my office would disapprove of pushups at the desk or even throwing a ball around as much as we disapprove of smoke breaks or gaming and facebook at the desk. (Don't think we don't know about that, lol.) But let's say your boss is a total jerk.... pick something else on the list.

    The idea here is to provide variety... so are you sure there really is nothing here for you?


About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.

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