13 Ways to Get Moving at Work

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Like so many of you, I suffer from back pain, which I keep in check by taking care of my body with daily yoga, weekly Pilates classes, and being conscious about my posture. And though my job is pretty awesome, I do spend my days in front of a computer. I love writing and editing, but I don't love sitting. I am fortunate that the SparkPeople offices have not only a treadmill desk but some standing desk options as well.

When I'm working on large projects, I've been known to spend hours and hours sitting--without much movement. As soon as I do stand up, my body feels it. So I avoid staleness of mind and stiffness of body by finding creative ways to move throughout the day.

Here's what works for me:
  1. Take walking meetings. A few weeks back, Coach Nicole and I had some brainstorming to do, so she suggested that we take our meeting on the road. The change of scenery and fresh air did us both some good, and we came up with some wonderful ideas. I can't wait for our next one!
  2. Drink more water. More water=more trips to the bathroom=reminders to get up from your desk. If your office has more than one restroom, consider walking to one that's farther away.
  3. Every time you finish a task, take a stretching break. When I cross something off my to-do list, I stand up and stretch. Shoulders, neck, back… whatever feels tight gets a quick stretch. Try some of these stretches today.
  4. Stand up while you chat. When someone stops by to talk to me, I often stand up. Not only am I looking them in the eye, but it gives me a chance to stretch my legs. I do the same thing when I'm on calls.
  5. Move those feet. OK, so this tip doesn't get you off your behind, but it does help you keep your feet and ankles from getting tight and sore. Mine are prone to tightness, so a few times a day, I extend my legs long and alternate pointing and flexing my feet. I do some ankle circles and toe scrunches, too. When I'm not wearing shoes, I practice "yoga feet": I  plant my feet firmly on the ground, spreading my toes as wide as I can, making contact with the heel and the balls of the big toe and pinky while lifting the arches.
  6. Change positions. When I'm not wearing a skirt or dress, I sit in unconventional positions. I place a yoga block on my chair and sit in lotus or half lotus, cross-legged,  or with my calves underneath me in hero pose. I've even been known to sit in "chair pigeon" pose, with one ankle atop the opposite knee or on the block in a squat top open tight hips. I can't sit in many of these poses for more than a few minutes at a time, so I am reminded to readjust and move into a different position. If sitting in yoga poses isn't for you, try sitting without your legs crossed (bad habit of mine).
  7. Remind yourself to get up. Use your phone to set an alarm that goes off every hour. Stand up, stretch, and do one lap around your office if possible. Rather than setting an actual timer, I rely on the music site I use (Pandora) to tell me when to get up. When the music times out and goes quiet, I know it's time to get up and move. When I work from home, I walk up and down the stairs to check on my cats; when I'm in the office, I walk to the water fountain, the restroom, or a coworker's desk.
  8. Take a breather. If I'm having particular taxing day mentally and I'm running low on creativity, I instead find a quiet space and set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes. Sometimes I sit at my desk and sometimes in an empty office. I sit cross-legged, close my eyes, and breathe. I count the length of my inhales, keeping them steady and even, then I pause and count my exhales, keeping that same slow, steady rhythm. I clear my mind as best I can and focus on my breathing. When the timer goes off--I have it set to a gentle harp--I take one final deep breath, blink open my eyes and return to my work feeling refreshed.
Consider trying these simple, quick ways to squeeze in fitness:
  1. Take the stairs not the elevator.
  2. Talk in person rather than using instant messenger.
  3. Park farther away or add in a walk around the block.
  4. Don't roll your chair. Get up and walk instead.
  5. Use your lunch break for workouts.
How do you find ways to get moving during the work day? Share your best tips in the comments below.

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Hello! I need some for ideas for when I'm standing all day doing a bookfair (I'm an Usborne Books & More Consultant). I get sooo stiff being on my feet all day. Thank you!! Report
I need these suggestions. Thank you. Report
I try to take a brisk 10 minute walk outside once a day. It leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to face the next task! Report
Very helpful - I tend to get engrossed in my project and can stay in front of my computer for hours. I've set my computer reminder so that I am reminded ever couple of hours to get up and move around a bit. Report
I do some of SP desk exercises & stretching. Since I've gotten my pedometer working again I try to make a conscious effort to take the long way around & not shortcuts thru the office & sometimes just walk the floor. Love the tips, will add some to my routine. Report
I like this blog. I am fortunate to live near my job so I walk to work. I try not to sit down at my station (the computer is high enough for me) and I try to move around a lot or find reasons to get up and go. Report
I try to take the stairs and I take a walk every lunch break=) Report
I march in place or stretch while my food is in the microwave. It's only for a few minutes but keeps me focused. Report
I march in place or stretch while my food is in the microwave. It's only for a few minutes but keeps me focused. Report
I work at an insurance and every day at 10am and 2pm, we have stretching exercises. I get to play DJ and find songs on YouTube that will inspire people to get up and move. It's amazing how many people will still dance to disco. And we also have a lot of laughs Report
I have a desk job. I bought a kitchen timer last week and set it to go off every 20 minutes. There has been some recent research that simply sitting at a desk for long periods of time slows your metabolism (above and beyond the fact that you aren't burning calories while sitting), and this can be *reversed* by standing up to move (even just to file something or to stretch your legs counts!) every 20 minutes. Report
I am a hospital pharmacist. Sometimes on second shift we have so many new orders coming at us that we cannot step away from the computer for hours. We are a closed department that nobody sees, so when we feel the "I can't look at one more order" fatigue, one of us will yell "chinese fire drill" and we get up and make 2 laps around the cubies and then sit back down and get back to work. Really revives the brain too. Report
You mentioned "stand up while you chat".
There's an even better one for many office workers - stand up while you are speaking on the phone! You can still be near enough the desk to jot down notes or whatever. But standing leads to other movement that is probably less likely to happen from a sitting position.

On the phone - I pace as I talk. The speed can pick up or reduce the more or less stressed I am with the phone call.
So I do this one at home, too.

It can make a difference to your day - try it! Report
Thanks for all the great tips! Report
I have several jobs which a two of them I sit and work at the computer, however, I love the other jobs that I have meeting new people to do business with as well as being an official for soccer and basketball. They all keep me level. Report
We schedule bike rides right from the office a few days per week. And Boss got us FitDesk Workstations to keep moving while using the computer. If I don't feel like using my FitDesk I just fold it up and put it in the corner until I feel like pedaling again. Report
I LOVE the idea of a walking meeting! My office is right on a trail network that stretches 25 km and runs along a river, so we have plenty of places to take a stroll and chat in my office! Thanks for the great tips! Report
Excellent article. Fortunately I've had the capability to move about my workplace freely as I am an RN. Have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the workday!!!! Report
Great suggestions and ideas. Thank you. Report
I drink water all the time at work. I love the idea of walking meetings. Sometimes one of my employees and I will go to a nearby park at lunchtime and throw a baseball around, weather-permitting. Smart-phones allow more out-of-the-office lunch activities; people can be summoned back in a crisis. Report
Thank you. I do need to get up away from my desk more. Report
i like the taking of water Report
Excellent timing since I am having a lot of back pain this week (not at all usual for me) and I am stuck at my home office desk working for too long each day (often 10 or more hours). I do try to walk to the bathroom farthest from my office each time instead of taking the quicker bathroom break Report
Great ideas! I'll try them out at work today.
Thanks! ~ Lynn Report
Wonderful article! Some of the tips were the usual ones you always see that may not be practical (like walking meetings), but there were some new ones. I like the idea of bringing a yoga brick and sitting in yoga poses, and the 5-minute meditation break. Thanks! Report
I work in an office, and it's quite hard to sit at my desk, so instead of calling and asking someone a question, I get up and go to their desk to ask! Gets me up and moving quite a bit, and I'm still working while I'm doing it! Report
Many of your ideas will work for those of us at home also. Thank you an informative and entertaining blog. Report
Fine if you work in an office. Some of us are not office workers. Report
It was funny to see this - before coming to work this morning, I told my husband that I HAVE to start getting up from my desk more because I am so stiff (plus pain from arthritis). What I used to do (since I have no sort of alarm here) is put a sticky on my monitor and write a time 20-30 minutes in the future and get up at that time and take a short walk. When I get back, I cross that off and put the next 20-30 minutes on there. I just got a Fitbit a couple of days ago and yesterday realized how little I am walking, so this will help both ways. The water idea is great too! Report
Thank for the info. Report
I do sit a lot but I tend to get up and down but I am at home and when I am not at home I am working taking care of developmentally disabled ladies and some basset hounds and I am up and down and I do like to go to the pool when I can get there and I do walk and I have a Wii that I need to get back to also. Report
I certainly relate to the water and trips to the bathroom! I also sit most of the day at my computer (I work at home), but I drink a heck of a lot of water and get lots of exercising with all those trips to the john! Report
I will definitely have to try some of these tips. Report
Good ideas Report
Great tips, thanks for sharing ... Report
Thanks. Report
Stand up desk... if you work in a cubicle, the desk height can be adjusted so that you can stand while you work. Replacing your standard desk chair with a lab-height chair will allow you to sit when needed. I worked with folks who made this change over 8 years ago, and they're still doing it. I work from home and now have my own stand-up desk and try to work there at least a few hours a day. The lower back pain totally disappears! Report
Some employers will count it against you if you don't use instant messenger. Their belief is that instant messenger saves time, and what saves time, saves the company money. Sad but true. Report
The conscience breathing is so important for keeping the stress level down! Report
I'm a teacher, and I can't figure out how to teach sitting down, LOL! So I'm either in front of the room explaining or demonstrating, or I'm wandering the room to see how each student is doing. Very little sitting for me in a school day! Report
I love the drink more water idea! Report
In most jobs in the U.S. our employers are legally mandated to provide a 15-minute break during each 4-hour work period (a part of that paid period). I can't tell you how often I, and others, have either worked through it or gone somewhere else and sat around. Similarly, with a full 8-hour day, a minimum of a 30-minute lunch is provided (not always paid). Bringing food means not wasting time going to and from some place to get it - opening up another 10 to 15-minute block.

One of my favorite things in the past was neighborhood walks. Those 10 to 15 minutes are just enough time for a warmup, brisk walk, cooldown and back to the desk with my head in a fresher place. (It's not just good physical activity for "burning calories" - it's an awesome stress relief and way to come back to the work with a fresh mindset.) Report
I too sit at a desk most of the day and I try to work in some of your suggestions-- especially when someone is talking to me, I generally stand up as well. Report
Thanks! Great tips! Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
I pastor a church and spend a lot of time reading and researching and praying. Which in most cases is setting. Something I have started is using my iPad to store my reading material so I can walk and read. This has actually added an increase in comprehension. My praying has become a walk-n-pray. This has actually brought more energy to my prayer and focus. In my research which is on a computer, I have begun a breakpoint in which I do a "walk-about". I get up and walk outside around the church property to refresh and refocus. These things have really energized my day and ministry, not just my physical well being. Report
Unfortunately there are aspects of my job that do not allow me to go very far from my computer, especially during an audit. I do try to get up every hour and walk down the hall to the copier or ladies room though, as my shoulders, neck and lower back really hurt when I am under alot of stress....like today Report
I love working out at lunch. It's so refreshing and breaks up the day. I like the idea of using the yoga poses in your chair to keep you moving. I'm tryin gthat right now actually. Yup...I have to move again! Thank you! Report
I use the same harp alarm for my meditation/breathing in the mornings! :) Love these tips. Report
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