Since the inception of my working life, I have had active roles that required me to be in a constant state of moving around. I worked as a barn hand and horseback riding instructor for much of my high school and early college experience. I had a job as a kennel tech then as a vet tech. I even worked at a doggy daycare before leaving the animal care world to work for one of the big-name neighbors of the happiest place on earth. These jobs all had one thing in common: They were active and, at times, physically exhausting.
Then I started taking on internships and focusing on making my writing a source of income and the weight started to creep up on me. I began to tire easily and feel less energized. I also noticed the subtle weight gain that comes from coffeeshop pastries and the revolving door of office treats available just a few strides away in the break room.
I realized if I was going to continue on a career path that was overall quite sedentary I needed to do something physical to keep my health in check. Otherwise, the weight gain and poor health would set in. Because, let’s face it, sitting in a chair all day is just not that great for you.
Through a quick brainstorm session, I decided on four easy changes I could make to keep my health in check and boost my energy back to its previous level. Do I workout seven days a week for an hour and a half like I used to? No, but this is my compromise. You’ll find some of these suggestions won’t work for you. Challenge yourself to find as many tiny ways to stay active as possible. The small things add up to be the big things, after all.
1. Take the Stairs
Taking the stairs is an easy, simple, change-up in your life that can help you toward your daily fitness goal. It may not seem like a big enough change to count for anything, in fact, it will probably feel like a hassle. But, you get 5 to 10 calories for every flight climbed that you otherwise wouldn’t burn had you taken the elevator.
I found myself riding the elevator up to the top floor of my apartment complex a few months ago simply to go to the gym. The gym. It hurts to type it out because the thought is so contradictory. Taking the stairs could have been my warmup yet here I was riding the elevator.
2. Make Standing Desks Your New Best Friend
Now, if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks to simply switch out your existing desk, there are modifications you can make. I boosted my desktop monitors and keyboard on boxes to add the height needed to work comfortably while standing up. I also take my laptop to the kitchen bar which is the perfect height for standing while working. Find ways in your own home to adjust your existing desk or find an alternative workstation for parts of your day. The calorie change from standing to sitting is small but it can help with things like back pain and blood sugar levels. In a study on improving worker health, it was found that even when reducing sitting by just 66 minutes per day participants experience less back and neck pain. They also reported improved mood states.
If you aren’t a freelancer and you don’t work from home, approach your boss or HR about getting you set up with a workstation that is more ergonomic.
3. Park Further Away
This is pretty simple. If you’re able-bodied you don’t need to park as close as humanly possible to the entrance. I constantly see people prowling the first few parking spots in a lot when it’s much easier to park further out and walk. It’s extra steps and you don’t have to be in the danger zone of other peoples’ questionable parking abilities—honestly, a luxury.
There are any number of small lifestyle and habit changes you can make that may seem more inconvenient but will get you moving a bit more. While it doesn’t seem like a lot to walk from the back of the parking lot, it’s a movement you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. And if you’re wasting time waiting for someone to pull out of a parking spot closer to the front of the building then you aren’t even saving time.
4. Walk While On the Phone
If you’re talking you could also be walking. Whether it’s a work call that doesn’t require intensive note-taking and screentime or a long daily chat with a loved one, talking on the phone is the perfect time to get some extra steps in. Take a few laps around your home, tidying up as you go. Just like that you’ve got three birds with one stone.
Hour-long chitchats can be more productive if you spend them moving around. In an hour and forty minutes, you can hit 10,000 steps depending on how quickly you’re moving. Just think of it like meeting up with a friend to walk the lake, except the lake is your house.
Also note, this is ten times easier with a treadmill but nothing is stopping you from just walking through your home aimlessly.
I used to spend a significant portion of my week at the gym. Before I got deeper into my studies and began my career, it was easy to find extra time for workouts. It was also a social outing. All our friends were going to be working out around the same time, why not go? Now, everyone has a wildly differing schedule and after a long day of work and responsibilities waiting at the door when you get home, going to the gym isn’t an everyday possibility. (And certainly not for one to two hours each day.) Adding in these extra moments of movement throughout your day can help you combat the time spent at a desk sitting without dedicating a significant chunk of your free time to the gym.