At a Desk All Day? 6 Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity

Business man standing at his desk

If you’re sitting at a desk all day, it can be hard to get the physical activity you need. | iStock.com

For a lot of Americans, getting enough physical activity into the day is a challenge. Modern times have brought on sedentary lifestyles, and it can be easy to find ourselves sitting at our desks all day and then heading home and sitting around at home all evening. Though some of us do get a workout in here and there, almost everyone could benefit from getting more movement in over the course of the day.

As many researchers and medical professionals have been saying as of late, sitting is having significant impacts on our health. Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and best-selling author, is among them. Bowman’s book, Don’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Workstation for Whole-Body Health, delves deep into those impacts and how a transition to a standing desk, or a more dynamic work environment, could potentially help us boost our collective productivity and lead healthier lives.

In short, we need to get off of our rumps and start moving. And Bowman has a method to help.

A simple, six-step process championed by Bowman is the S.W.I.T.C.H. method. We’re going to walk through each step, one-by-one, on the following pages. If you’re stuck at a desk all day and need to find a way to inject some more physical activity in throughout the day, give the S.W.I.T.C.H. method a shot.

1. Stand more and sit better

man slumped over his desk at work

Whether you’re standing or sitting, make sure you’re not slouching forward. | iStock.com

Here’s the first “s” in our S.W.I.T.C.H. acronym: standing and sitting with better form.

Your body’s core has a job, and by delegating that job to your chair, you’re missing out an opportunity to put your muscles to work (albeit slightly). Here’s what you can do: Sit at the front edge of your chair and force your core muscles to support your back — also, change positions frequently. You could also try sitting on the floor from time to time or trying out different chairs to see how your posture holds up. Interestingly enough, you might even get some insight into your own longevity from your ability to sit on the floor.

2. Walk

Business man walking up stairs

Make sure you’re walking throughout the day to keep your blood flowing. | Thinkstock

Here’s your “w”: Walk for three minutes every half hour to keep blood flowing. While it’s easy to get sucked into your spreadsheet (or Reddit thread) and watch the hours slip away, your body can and will benefit monstrously from some simple walking. Take a break, go outside, maybe hit the staircase, and grab a glass of water. Or, here’s an idea to float past your boss: Instead of sitting in the conference room, suggest a walking meeting. If you have a hard time justifying it, remind your co-workers that walking can actually boost creativity — and, in turn, productivity.

3. Interval train your eyes

Man looking away from computer

Keep your eyes strong by looking away from your computer every once in awhile. | iStock.com

Moving right along to the “i,” which also just so happens to involve the eye: Interval train the eyes by taking frequent breaks to gaze out a window at something far away. Yes, interval training is typically something you hear in regards to running or other forms of exercise, but applying similar principles to your eyes can help you tremendously.

Bowman explains how this can help you in detail by describing “pumpkin eyes.” Basically, the muscles in your eyes contract based on the distance between you and what you’re looking at. To keep your eyes strong and “fit,” see what you can do to keep your face at a distance from your computer screen. Also, make sure to take a break for a minute or two to simply gaze out the window every half hour.

4. Train your feet

Man working outside with no shoes on

Grab a textured mat to keep the muscles in your feet active. | iStock.com

If you’ve never given much thought to texture and how it can help your feet, now’s the time to give it some consideration. Bowman suggests getting a pebble mat or something similar (a squishy mat will suffice) and spending a short amount of time walking on it. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and had to walk across the driveway or a bed of rocks with no shoes on — definitely a bit tricky.

How is this going to help you? When you spend most of your day on your ass, your feet may actually weaken. Walking across a textured or uneven surface can help activate the muscles in the foot and strengthen them. It can even burn more calories than traditional walking, which is good news if you’re hoping to work off some of those cheese balls you’ve been scarfing at your desk.

5. Calf stretch

business man stretching and doing yoga

You can train your calves during your workday, too | iStock.com

We’ve covered how you can train your calves previously, but if you’re prone to a more sedentary lifestyle, getting some simple calf stretches in during the day can do wonders. Specifically, it’ll help blood circulate to your lower legs, getting some important blood flow through the vessels.

Here are a few easy steps: Take off your shoes and place the ball of your left foot on a rolled-up towel, yoga mat, or half-foam roller. Then, with the left leg straight, step the right leg forward, and keep the heel of the stretching foot on the ground. Hold that position momentarily for a minute, then switch legs. Do this a few times, and you’ll be all set.

6. Hang

man hanging on bar

Use a chin-up bar to stretch your arms throughout the day. | iStock.com

Yes, we’re still sticking to the S.W.I.T.C.H. acronym, and we’re finally at the end. Our “h,” in this case, is “hang.”

Look for a doorjamb, or if you have a chin-up bar, simply hop on and hang on. No need to actually bust out some pull-ups (unless you really want to) — you’re just giving your body and arms a stretch. Make sure to keep your arms slightly bent so the tension and work is being done by your muscles and not straining your joints.

For more tips on improving productivity through movement, head over to Katy Bowman’s site and check out her bookDon’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Workstation for Whole-Body Health.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger