Health & Wellbeing

On your Feet Britain: 10 ways to be more active at work

Man in white shirt stretching at desk

Think you’re safe from sedentary life because you go to the gym? Think again…

Research found that the negative effects found in sedentary people are also present in those who consider themselves active, if they also sit for long periods of the day. You could still be at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers if you work in a job which requires you to sit at your desk for long periods of time, regardless of your activity levels outside the office.  

The British Heart Foundation and Get Britain Strong have partnered up and are on a mission to get the UK off their feet. The national campaign ‘On your Feet Britain’ will culminate on April 29th as they challenge everyone to move more throughout the working day, by taking walks around the room, standing whilst on the phone, conducting meetings and using the stairs.

According to their survey of 2,000 office workers in the UK, 45% of women and 37% of men spend less than 30 minutes a day up on their feet at work. While 78% of office workers felt that they spend too long sitting during their day, and nearly two-thirds were concerned that sitting down for such a long time was having a negative effect on their health. 

Extended periods of sitting triggers adverse effects on the body, including slowing down the metabolism, affecting sugar regulation and the breakdown of fat, and controlling blood pressure. Aswell as these physical effects, sitting at a desk and being engrossed in a computer screen for long periods of the day can be damaging to your mental health, increasing the risk of anxiety, sleep disorders and depression.  

The good news is that it’s easy to increase your activity over the course of the day if you become more conscious of it, and if you’re feeling brave in front of your colleagues, there are also a number of ways that you can creatively use the office environment to increase your exercise. 

Man exercising at desk

1. Take the stairs

Dodge the awkward conversation in the lift and ramp up your exercise by taking the stairs. This will work your leg muscles, strengthen your posterior chain and help to burn some extra calories through the day. Jog up the stairs if you can! 

2. Squat while you’re waiting 

Optimise your waiting times by squatting down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and squeezing your muscles as you push yourself back up. You might look a bit strange to passers-by while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, but your legs and glutes will thank you for it!

3. Take a walk

We spend so much time chained to our desks during the day, but sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what you need to fuel your creativity. Before your next meeting, advise that everyone takes a 5-minute walk around the building, to brainstorm their ideas. We guarantee that everyone will return with a fresh perspective and new ideas.  

4. Wall sit

Shake up the traditional problem-solving environment by doing a wall sit; it’s the perfect way to brainstorm whilst also strengthening your posterior chain. With your back flat against a wall, squat down so your thighs are parallel to the floor, hold for 30 seconds, or longer if you can, and repeat as much as possible throughout the day. 

5. Squeeze the most out of your day

Tensing your muscles is a simple way to exercise if you can’t leave your seat. If you’re stuck in a meeting, then squeeze your abs for 15 seconds and release, and repeat several times through the day. You could also squeeze your glutes every time you stand and sit back down on your chair. 

6. Seated leg raise

If you’re blessed with enough leg room under your desk, you can use this extra space to stretch out and work your core. While seated, fully extend your legs so they are straight and raise them up and down without putting your feet back on the floor. Complete 20 raises and repeat for as many sets as you can. 

7. Put a running track in your office

Personal Trainer Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach, often races his colleagues in the office on his own running track. This might not be the most conventional way to exercise, but if you have a particularly large office then you could fashion your own sprinting track using some masking tape to make lines, and then race one another. Perhaps save this one for a Friday afternoon!

8. Bodyweight calf raises

Another easy exercise for when you’re waiting for the printer, the kettle or the microwave is the standing calf raise. Stand upright with your feet facing forward and rise up onto your toes, then return to normal and repeat 20 times. 

9. Core chair swivel

A chair on wheels can make a great core workout. Simply extend your arms out away from you so they just reach the desk, keep your feet planted firmly on the floor in front of you and then twist your wait side to side using your core. You should feel this in your oblique muscles. 

10. Standing hamstring curls

Stand behind and hold onto a (wheel-free) chair and alternate raising your legs up behind you, aiming to reach your bottom, then lower them to the floor. Complete 20 times and repeat for another two sets.