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3 ways to fit in exercise when working from home

December 2, 2020

New research shows that the number of days that American workers telecommute has doubled during the pandemic. Not only that, one in four workers say they are working entirely from home. And while there are clear benefits to a home office setup, it is also easy for work-life boundaries to blur. Longer hours online, meetings, and increased family responsibilities can make it hard to prioritize exercise. Committing to small but impactful actions throughout the day can help.

One way to carve out time is to "reclaim your commute." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute is nearly a half hour one way. If you are now working from home, dedicate the time you would have spent commuting to physical activity.

Follow these tips to increase your physical activity level while at home:

Increase your step count

  • Why it's important: Even a few minutes of walking improves blood circulation, muscle activity and your ability to concentrate. Set a daily step goal (the standard is around 10,000 steps, but it will vary based on your personal fitness level). Track your results using your phone, smartwatch, or fitness tracker.
  • How often: Every one or two hours. Set a calendar reminder or a nudge from your watch or phone – even a kitchen timer will do. When your reminder goes off, fight the temptation to snooze the notification.
  • What to do: Walk for five to 10 minutes, indoors or out. Take the dog for a quick stroll or go up and down your stairs at home. If you don't have stairs or the weather is an issue, march in place or pace around the house. If you can join a meeting without videoconferencing, pace during calls.

Stand, stretch and move

  • Why it's important: Standing up and stretching keeps muscles flexible and maintains range of motion in the joints. Sitting all day can tighten your hip flexors and impact your lower back, neck, wrists, and shoulders. Try this easy stretch routine for your back and midsection.
  • How often: Try to stand for a few minutes every hour or two. Stretch twice a day or as often as needed.
  • What to do: Stand up. Bending at the waist, drop your arms toward your toes. Roll through your back as you slowly stand back up, then reach both arms overhead and stretch. Breathe deeply, holding this position with your arms extended for a few seconds. Repeat five times.

If you have trouble remembering to stand often, enlist the help of digital tools. You can ask a smart speaker with voice assist to remind you to stand at certain times. Or, use a smartphone app or watch app designed to prompt you to stand.

You can also get your coworkers involved and make it a group activity. If you have the ability to move your computer or workspace, perhaps suggest a standing meeting. If it is over video, you can keep each other accountable.

Strengthen your muscles

  • Why it's important: Muscle strength keeps your bones healthy and your tendons and ligaments working properly.
  • How often: Once or twice a day. Keep in mind for optimal health, you should aim to do a total body weight lifting session at least two times a week.
  • What to do: Pick a few simple exercises, like chair squats and desk pushups:
    • Chair squat: Stand up in your chair, feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend at the knees, with your back straight. Lower your body to the chair without actually sitting down. Keeping your weight in your heels and pressure off the knees, push back up into a standing position. Repeat 15 times.
    • Desk pushup: Stand facing your desk or a wall. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, keeping arms straight. Slowly bend your arms and lower your chest to the edge of your desk, then push up to straighten. Repeat 15 times.

Be sure to mix up your exercises to target different areas of your body. YouTube is a great resource. The platform has many free videos and channels focused on simple fitness routines. With videos as short as five minutes and aimed at all ages, there's something for everyone.

These activities are just a sample of what you can do at home. Finding time for even small amounts of movement can reduce stress, improve sleep, and ward off disease. It can also help you manage your weight and feel more in control day to day.

With the work from home trend here to stay, learning a few at-home exercises is a great way to care for your body and carve out time for your health.

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