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From deskside exercise to lunch-break classes, how to fuse fitness into your working day

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When work starts to take up a few more hours than it should, or schedules are so tight an after-office workout just isn’t feasible, it’s time to look at fusing fitness with your typical work day.

Could you be flexing a few extra muscles at your desk? Or raising your heart rate (the healthy way) between meetings? It might sound like shoehorning, but with a little innovative thinking it can certainly be done.

Try these simple ways to bring fitness into your 9 to 5, sometimes without even leaving your seat.

The sit and squeeze

You don’t need souped-up gym equipment to give your muscles a workout. As personal trainer Dax Moy explains, “Your body doesn't actually know the difference between barbells, dumb-bells, kettlebells, yoga and beyond. All it knows is that a muscle is asked to contract for a certain tension and a certain time. This is great news as you can contract your muscles anytime, anywhere.

“Sitting there in your chair, standing on the tube, waiting in line for your lunch, you can contract thighs, glutes, abs, chest, arms and, well, anything. Just squeeze for all you're worth for 5-10 reps of 5-10 seconds each, and you'll have given yourself a pretty decent workout that's strengthened and toned your muscles.”

woman exercising at work using dumbbells at desk

Lunch-break classes

A 2008 Leeds Metropolitan University study found that employees who exercised during normal daytime hours (i.e on their lunch break) reaped mental benefits as well physical ones. Participants returned to their desks feeling happier, more positive and reported a higher rate of productivity following a burst of exercise such as a fitness class, compared with the days on which they didn’t exercise. Plenty of city gyms offer quick classes that last for 30 minutes or less, designed to slot into a lunch hour. Some, such as Psycle, 1Rebel and Frame, also have on-site juice and food bars which make picking up lunch easier too.

The standing desk

While a treadmill desk might be a step too far for most offices (though it’s worth considering if you have the space and an open-minded team), a standing desk can slot easily into most work environments. Several studies acknowledged by the NHS have linked excessive sitting with obesity, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. In the short term, it’ll also leave you feeling lethargic and less productive; neither of which are great for your overall health and fitness.

Walking meetings

Can you take a meeting out of the office and for a lap around the park instead? If need to discuss things with a particularly close colleague, you could even suggest brainstorming during a light jog. It may sound off the wall, but experts argue that getting out in the fresh air can encourage more creative thinking, while you’ll reap the benefits of some light exercise too.

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