How to stay fit while working from home

Sitting is deadly. Exercise is time-consuming. The Solution? Fit a workout into your workday.

Sitting at your desk all day is bad for your health. The research is pretty conclusive about this. And if you do it, you know it in your bones. According to a study done by Yale Medicine, prolonged sitting at a desk job can cause weight gain, vascular problems, heart disease, and skeletal problems. But, if you work from home, you probably don’t need Yale to tell you this. The solution is to get up and move more. And that, as we all know — as you also fight deadlines, focus challenges, and a work culture that asks for our attention 24/7 — is easier to say than it is to do. I have been doing this WFH thing for decades. Here are some strategies for staying fit while you work from home.

Wear a fitness tracker

It’s good to have goals and accountability, especially if you are working fitness into a workday in small increments. I cannot emphasize this enough: Wear a fitness tracker. It will tell you, accurately and daily, how much you have moved, even when your phone is sitting on your desk. I like the HALO band ($60; though it often goes on sale) because it’s small and the battery life lasts a week. But any fitness tracker will work here. If money is tight, strap on this inexpensive version from Amazfit ($29). I haven’t tried the Amazfit but the 16,000 five-star reviews are encouraging.

Use a scale so you know the truth

What gets measured gets solved. And this Bluetooth smart scale ($23) from Renpho is a great place to stand every day to make sure you are staying within your limits, hitting your goals, or at least know where the needle is, right now. It’s a lot easier to recover from a lapse if it’s a short one. This scale is small, collects lots of data, and lets you see your progress in an app. The app even makes a special sound if you gain or lose weight, which is fun. (You can choose the sound.)

Get a standing desk

A standing desk isn’t the one-stop fix that people would like it to be. But it does make it possible to stand for calls — even video ones — alternate between standing and sitting, and bring a bit more movement into your work day. And that can do wonders for all the ills that sitting brings to your health. It does require some discipline and habits to make it work. I love my Flexispot standing desk ($280) and often alternate between sitting and standing all day long. I always take calls standing. I even read somewhere that it gives you power in a video call to stand. (Though that’s not why I do it.) It has three presets so that going from sitting to standing requires nothing more than pushing one button and standing up.

Use a timer to trigger movement

Have you tried the Pomodoro method? This is where you work in bursts of 20 or 30 minutes, then take a short break. (I like doing 20 minutes with a five-minute break.) It can be a very effective way to be highly productive. And if you do some exercise on the breaks, you can get quite of bit of it in during a work day. It’s important to use a timer for your sprints and breaks. I rely on the mooas Multi Cube Timer ($19), which is a low-tech cube that sits on my desk. I flip it from 20 to 5 all day long. It keeps the urge to disappear into some online rabbit hole or social media to a minimum — because you get a break every 20 minutes. And, even with all those breaks, I get more done than when I don’t use this tool and method.

Get accessories for your standing desk

Standing is still pretty sedentary so you have to find a way to work a bit of movement into it. A treadmill paired with a standing desk is the dream but who has the space? And would I be able to write while walking? I have not attempted this. This balance board ($50), though, adds movement, works small muscles in your legs and feet, improves balance, and takes a lot of the fatigue out of standing.

Subscribe to a fitness app

Instead of taking a short break to shop online or chat on the phone — or snack — grab your phone, pull up the AloMoves app, and do a ten-minute yoga class. If you do that three times a day, that’s a thirty-minute workout before you knock off work. All you need for this is a subscription (here’s a free 30-day trial to get you started), some comfy clothes, and a yoga mat. You can even skip the yoga mat if that’s not available. Find a rug or fold a blanket in half.

Keep a jump rope in your desk drawer

Five minutes of jumping rope will take your heart into that zone you need to go to get an intense level of workout. This weighted ropeless speed rope ($13) won’t break anything because you aren’t attempting to fling a rope around the living room. You just get the feeling of doing that. You can also get right to it instead of learning how to jump rope without whipping your own shins every few minutes. Or try this RENPHO Smart Jump Rope ($18) that will track your effort and goals on your phone, which, being a geek, I love.

Keep some resistance bands in play

If there is a resistance band hanging from a door or within easy reach, you can do some quick weight exercises during a five-minute break or while thinking about your next task. This set of long bands that come with a door anchor ($29) will let you do just about any exercise you can imagine in a small space. If these are new to you, start with an online class or check out these 30 resistance band exercises for your entire body.

Take meetings on the hoof

If possible, take your calls for a walk or make meetings a walking event. Anything you can do to break up the sitting is a win. And that’s true for everyone, not just you. If you suggest it, you might find people are grateful. Keep a pair of wireless headphones handy so you can grab your phone and go for a walk anytime the phone rings. This over-ear pair ($40) is affordable, sounds great, and has a long battery life. It won’t fall out of your ears while you are chatting, either.

Turn your lunch break into a workout

You can probably eat at your desk, right? So instead of sitting down again to eat your lunch when you take your lunch, use that time to go for a walk or do a yoga class. And eat while you work. Keep some handy lunch containers — like this durable and easy-to-wash set ($14) from Ello — on hand so you can make lunch in advance to expedite this.

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