Women's Health Wednesday January 11, 2012

Ways to be active when you have a desk-bound job

Often, the causes of weight gain and health problems are a sedentary lifestyle, but who can blame us? It’s difficult getting the required amount of exercise if you are desk-bound for eight to nine hours a day, five days a week and sometimes over the weekends. However, it’s an undeniable part of being healthy and the government initiative Change4Life recommends that every person should attempt to be active for just 150 minutes a week.

It doesn’t mean that you have to go into overdrive and suddenly take up a regimented exercise routine, but there are various little things you can do to inject activity back into your life and get your heart rate elevated, hopefully empowering you to try a more regular routine.

So apart from asking your boss about the possibility of a treadmill desk - which does exist! - what can we do?

1. Park further away or get off the bus a few stops earlier when going to work

Getting off the bus a few stops earlier when going home or going to work, can get your blood pumping, oxygenating your muscles and stimulating the release of endorphins, ensuring that you get to work or home feeling energised. Studies have shown that as little as 15 minutes of exercise can help provide almost immediate relief to people who are stressed or depressed.

A brisk 10 minute walk should usually burn between 40 to 90 calories, which may not seem like much, but it’s better than nothing, and when used alongside a calorie controlled diet, could help make a big difference.

2. Go for a quick walk during your lunch break

Although it might not seem like the most relaxing way to spend your lunch break, it might surprise you how good you feel after going for a 30 minute lunch time walk. Personally I enjoy exploring the area around the office by walking 15 minutes in one direction and the turning around and walking the 15 minutes back. I try and do this after having eaten as walking is said to aid digestion and can even prevent heartburn if you regularly suffer from acid reflux.

It goes without saying that walking also helps burn calories, but research by the Mayo Clinic has found that after meal walks also stimulates your metabolism, lowers blood pressure and helps with diabetes and joint pain.

walking man

Walking to break up your working day can help you relax if you’ve had a particularly stressful morning and can allow you to gain perspective and return to work focussed and rejuvenated.

To enhance your efforts you could try and use ankle weights, which you can discreetly hide underneath your trousers. These weights add resistance, which can help tone your legs and make the exercise you do more intense, but they can increase pressure on joints, so be careful.

3. Bike or walk to work

For many of us, biking or walking to work isn’t really viable, but if you can, it’s definitely a good idea to try and do it as often as possible, ideally three times or more a week, as this is helpful to your health as well as the environment. Biking or walking to work allows you to squeeze in a steady amount of exercise into your schedule your day, without it eating too much into your time after and before work.

If you’ve never done it before, then maybe do a trial run over the weekend to make sure that you leave your home with enough time to get to work in time.

4. Take part in activities for entertainment

Instead of going to a film or the theatre, you could do something a little more physically challenging as a source of entertainment.

You could for example choose to go to a theme park, go bowling, play a game of tennis or even try your hand at archery.

5.Get exercise equipment for your home

Cross trainers and stationary bikes are good investments to help you exercise at home, because they aren’t likely to take up too much space or be noisy.

Exercise equipment in your home means that the weather doesn’t dictate when you exercise, and you can easily incorporate it into your evening or morning routine. You could, for example, hop on your exercise bike when you get up first thing in the morning while watching the news, or do it in the evenings while watching television. Simply 40 minutes could burn almost around 400 calories, and that’s going at a leisurely pace!

Cardiovascular exercise, in other words, is exercise that gets your heart pumping, making you feel a little out of breath and has been proven to be helpful in reducing dangerous visceral fat. Visceral fat can be found in the abdominal area and around organs and can lead to atherosclerosis, premature aging, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

walking dog

Doing housework while watching TV, playing with your kids, walking the dog or simply walking around while having a phone call are also activities you can do at home that add to your 150 minute weekly workout.

Although the above mentioned exercises aren’t likely to be harmful, it’s best to check with your doctor before doing any kind of strenuous exercise, particularly if you have existing health problems. If you would like to know more about being more active, you could visit the NHS’s Change4Life page here.

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