I work long hours...
- at a desk”
- in front of a computer”
- on the phone”
- in meetings”
- on business travel”
As technology has advanced, fewer and fewer Americans have jobs that require much physical activity. And lack of physical activity just isn’t natural for our bodies. We started out as hunters and gatherers, constantly active, and working every part of our body, including the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems, on a daily basis. Up until a few decades ago, it was still possible to have a job that involved a fair amount of physical labor, either working in the farm fields, on manufacturing assembly lines, or on various construction projects. However, fewer and fewer of these types of jobs now exist as manpower has been replaced by machines.
In today's post, I outline many creative ways to introduce more physical activity into your life. While your job may not allow you to take advantage of all of the tips outlined here, maybe they will get your creative juices flowing and you can devise your own unique ideas for increasing your activity.
Before you ever arrive at your office or cubicle, there are many things you can do to increase the amount of physical activity you get. If you live within 5 or 10 miles of your office, I would argue that you should be riding a bike into the office, and if you live within 3 miles, you could even walk. Even if you have a much longer commute, there are still many creative ways to get physical activity, cut down on your expenses, and help save our environment. If you take the bus to work, consider only taking the bus as far as you need and walking or biking the remaining commute. Many city buses are equipped to carry bikes on the front of them. Likewise, if you take a subway or train, you might not be able to take your bike with you (although I know it’s possible in at least one city because I did it) you should at least consider getting off a stop early and walking the remaining distance to your office. It won’t kill you to carry an extra pair of shoes while you walk in comfortable running shoes. I spent some time in Belgium and the number of people that commute by bike is incredible—I saw women riding in skirts and dress shoes, little kids carrying book bags strapped to their handle bars, and even grown men wearing suits and ties. Now while I recommend a change of clothes and shoes, hey, do whatever works for you!
It can be fun and even rewarding to take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you work on the seventeenth floor and can’t quite bring yourself to climb that far, then get off on the fourteenth and walk the last three flights (by the way, some day you will walk all 17 flights and you will become a legend in your office). Likewise, if you work on the second floor, nothing says you can’t walk them twice or even three times when no one is looking. Will people find that odd?—maybe. But don’t be surprised if you find them doing it next time!
For the average person who spends most of their day cooped up in a tiny office in front of a computer or on a webinar or teleconference, you need to make a conscious effort to incorporate physical activity into your day. Your office chair can be used to do dips and modified push-ups, as well as to stretch out various muscles including the hamstrings, quads, and back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi. Using your office wall, you can stretch calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius) and arm muscles (biceps and triceps). Once you understand how to stretch various muscles of the body, you will find more and more creative ways to stretch those muscles.
When I was confined to office work, I rarely went out to eat unless I was forced to do so by very influential managers or staff members. Lunch time is your break time. It’s not just for eating. Pack a nutritious lunch that you can snack on all day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to put berries, carrots, and other nutritious food items into little baggies. Grocery stores now sell pre-packed bags of fruit and vegetables if you’re really pressed for time. Several smaller meals are healthier than one large meal and you may actually save money by not going out to your favorite restaurant every day. And I don’t accept the argument that going out to lunch is a good time to socialize with your colleagues. Why don’t you go for a walk or even a jog with your colleagues, depending on their fitness levels. The fresh air and new sights and sounds may inspire your group to dream up a new idea, approach, or strategy that could really benefit the company. I know that for me, I always did my best thinking during my daily run. I would often come back to the office and crank out entire reports that I had literally written in my head as I went for my lunch-time walk, run, or bike ride.
Small meetings of two to three people can be conducted very effectively during a stroll through the park. The next time you are asked to brainstorm new ideas with your manager or colleagues, ask them if they wouldn’t mind going for a walk to stimulate fresh ideas. This approach is not just good for your health, it is good for the health of your company. Physical activity sharpens your mind and energizes your body, making you more effective at making decisions, keeping you awake during those meetings that you would normally sleep through, and sparking creative thought that you just can’t always achieve in a stuffy conference room.
Becoming more physically active is a lifestyledecision and you can lead the charge within your company. Work toward changing not only your mindset, but the mindset of others. The best minds in business are already doing it! Those young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are known for their eccentric behaviors, such as rollerblading around the office and cycling to work even though their older counterparts at large industrial companies might still take a limo.
When you go on business travel, consider staying over on a Friday night and running a 5K or 10K the next Saturday morning before flying back home. Late night flights, particularly on Friday nights, are usually delayed anyway so why not relax, get up early, have a refreshing run, and meet new people before heading to the airport, which will be considerable less crowded on a Saturday afternoon.
It can become even more fun if your job involves foreign travel. As you plan your trip, look for opportunities to incorporate an interesting event, such as marathon, triathlon, or bike race, into your trip. This requires advance planning, although most foreign travel is planned at least 30 days in advance, especially if you work directly or indirectly for the government as I did.
With the Internet, it has never been easier to find events around the world or to find local organizations, such as biking, running, and tennis clubs, that might have a noncompetitive evening event scheduled. It is easy and inexpensive to rent a bike at your destination city.
Nearly all flights require a layover at a hub airport. These airports, like Atlanta Richfield, Chicago O’Hare, LAX, and many others are so big that there are shuttles and trains between concourses. Instead of taking a shuttle, walk to your connecting gate if you have enough time. Overseas flights are notorious for long layovers in the international airports, such as LAX, Washington’s Dulles, and La Guardia, and this is a great time to not just walk to your connecting gate, but to actually walk lapsin the airport as a workout. I have even left some airports entirely and gone for a jog outside when I had an extended layover, not that I’m necessarily recommending that you go that far.
Now some of you might have a problem with this one, but I used to actually stretch and exercise right inthe airport. Using those hard black chairs that you see at every gate, I would do chair dips and modified push-ups against the chairs, and I would use the chairs to help stretch out my hamstrings, quads, and back muscles.
When you are staying in a hotel on business travel, you probably have more time to work out than when you are at home. At least that’s what I always found. Really! The maids clean your room, make your bed, and you go out to eat. Most hotels have a fitness room, but even if they don’t or even if it is small and crowded, there are ample opportunities to work out in your hotel room, in the hotel itself, and outside of the hotel. Examples of exercises that you can do in your room include push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, isometrics, yoga, and more. Use your imagination! Getting a good aerobic workout usually requires at least leaving your room and possibly even leaving the hotel itself because people might start complaining if you jump rope, jog in place, or do burpees or jumping jacks in your hotel room. All of these activities can be done outside. I enjoy going to a nearby park where I can walk or jog. However, if the weather is miserable, you can still get a workout by walking or jogging up and down the stairs of the hotel and quietly walking the hallways. Nowadays with most hotels having a fitness room and many having indoor pools, the only thing preventing you from getting exercise is lack of motivation. If your boss insists on an evening meeting, suggest a walk in the park to discuss your plans, strategies, etc., for the business trip. Ask the concierge where there are nearby parks or trails and take your running shoes everywhere!
~Dotso, CPT, CPFT, PES, BA, MS
President, DotsoFit, LLC
Copyright © 2012