Exercise at work

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all heard how dangerous it is to spend all day sitting, and it’s recently been reported that we should be getting at least an hour a day of moderate exercise to counteract the effects of sitting down the rest of the day. But finding the time is difficult.

This Thrillist article proposes that exercising at work should be normalized:


I have a yoga ball, aka an adult hippety-hop, that I sit on from time to time, although I’m dubious as to whether that really does much for my core. I just like bouncing while I work. Other than that, I just try to walk out a bit at lunchtime and take the long way to and from the bathroom. I do think my colleagues would look a bit askance at deskside burpees, wall squats, and so forth.

How about the rest of you? I remember that Risley has her under-desk cycle — is it still working out well? Have others found a good way to get in a little exercise at work? And do you think exercising at work should be a thing?


25 thoughts on “Exercise at work

  1. I don’t think there is a stigma to exercising at work necessarily – we have an office gym that is very cheap (or free if you are high enough up in the company). People walk or run at lunch. There are standing desks and a few treadmill desks. We have exercise balls for chairs some places. Nobody would think you were odd for doing/having any of those things.

    Generally, I just try to get out at lunch for a walk. I am reluctant to use the work gym because I really don’t want to exercise with co workers and because it is a whole production to have to shower again in the middle of the day.

    I think that doing wall sits or burpees in the hallway during work hours is another thing entirely. I would probably think that was odd if I saw it.

  2. When I worked in an office daily, my walk from parking garage to the building was 3/10 of a mile and I worked on the 7th floor. If I wasn’t carrying too much stuff, I would walk and take the stairs. I would always use the printer on the other side of my floor and would walk some at lunch, unless it was pouring down rain or a lunch meeting. I would frequently use the restroom one floor down and take the stairs. I had an office with a door – I could do wall squats, but not enough room for burpees.

    Now that I work at home I really notice the lack of exercise built into the routine. I go get to the gym more regularly as my work schedule is built around it.

    The one office I worked in had a shower/changing room and quite a few people would use it after biking to work. More often guys!

  3. I used to go running at lunch a once or twice a week -there’s a locker room with showers in my building and a running trail not too far from my office. But as work started getting busier and I became more crunched for time, I decided it was more efficient to go for a run before work (this also coincided with when my kids were old enough to get ready for school on their own).

    I am on the 6th floor of my building and should take the stairs from the ground level in the morning more than I do.

  4. Many people in our building take a walk around during the day; not me. But I just go to the gym after work, so in addition to the 5min walks car-building and back every day, my steps are pretty limited outside of that.

    I used to work out mid afternoon at a former employer. There was a full gym/showers/locker room in the basement. So when I hit the ‘time for an afternoon pick me up’ I went to the gym as my lunch break. Really helped make it thru the mid-late afternoon. And interestingly, no on really noticed being out for 1-1.5 hrs then. They just figured I was in a meeting, so it worked much better than if e.g. I worked till 5 and left soon after to hit the gym. Still in the building till 6ish but totally different acceptance factor.

  5. I think this is largely a factor of cube-land and open office environments. It would be hard not to be distracted by someone doing burpees in the cube next door, or doing squats against a wall in the hallway when I’m trying to get by. OTOH, my treaddesk has provoked good-natured teasing, but people are mostly impressed (they’d be less impressed if they realized how little I have used it lately). And I can shut my door whenever I feel like it to do squats or whatever.

    Using your lunch hour to exercise is IMO a completely different thing — many people do that, and it never gets anything other than an “atta girl.”

    What I find interesting is what one client has done. They do a lot of fairly standard stuff, like offer exercise classes at a bunch of times over the day. But the part that gets me is that they built automatic breaks into their computer systems: if the rate of typing suggests the person has been working hard for X time, it will first beep to remind them to take a break, and then ultimately lock the person out for a few minutes. And then they have longer breaks every few hours to remind them to get up and walk around. Honestly, that would drive me bat-shit crazy — when I’m on a roll, the last thing I need is my computer nanny telling me to stretch. But it definitely seems to create a corporate culture that assumes that people should move around, take breaks, exercise, etc.

  6. “and then ultimately lock the person out for a few minutes”

    Yikes, I would hate that!

    I used an under desk cycle/elliptical, but only for a few months and then I didn’t keep it up. I would use it while standing at my desk, and also tried using it while watching TV. The other thing I stopped using was a reading tray for my treadmill. It just seemed like too much trouble to go downstairs to the basement to read when it was just so much easier to flop on to a chair to read for a few minutes.

    Maybe part of my problem is my resistance to or difficulty with combining/multitasking exercise with another activity. I keep up my exercise regime just fine. But when I’m exercising that’s all I’m doing, except for listening to music or watching TV.

  7. Dorothy Parker is quoted with saying that her version of cleaning is sweeping the room with a glance.

    I take the same stance with exercising at work. I have an office with a door and have done stretches over my desk, but the idea of getting all gross at work and then returning to work does not appeal at all. I’d rather get home earlier than I would if I worked out in the office or near the office during the day.

    I attempt to get to the gym 2-3 times a week. Until I got pregnant I was going good. Now I’m lucky if I hit 2.

  8. I’m with Rhode. My exercise is limited to outside the office.

    I’m so ready for the weather to cool down do that I can walk more. Now, if I don’t walk at 6am, it gets way too hot. That worked during summer break, but now that school’s back in session, I don’t have time in the morning.

  9. We have an awesome gym here with great classes and showers. I use it several days a week and even use it to shower if i go running somewhere else before work.

    The specific department I work in has a lot of athletes so almost everyone works out. We have several soccer players and even an Iron man in the group. So it’s very common to see people go to the gym at lunch or I’ve started going at 11 am if i can get away.

    In fact I will be heading to yoga in 45 minutes.

    PS Rio was awesome!

  10. lagirl – you should give a full rundown when you get the chance. I was looking for you in the stands (not that I know what you look like, but someone I could say “i bet that’s lagirl”).

  11. One nice thing about working on a largish hilly campus is that I am always walking rapidly from one building to another, with lots of stairs in my way

  12. Where my husband works, at a large hedge fund, they have a gorgeous gym with trainers and lots of equipment and showers of course. My husband is a distance runner, and no one minds that he takes 90 minutes to go out for long runs. I think there is a lot of culture of being fit at that company

  13. Rhode: hahahah I was hoping to be seen on TV-I even knitted a red beanie for the opening ceremony but alas that wasn’t meant to be

  14. lagirl – I agree with Rhode – I’d love to hear more about your trip to Rio!

  15. I would love to hear more about Rio Olympics trip. I already miss watching, and I’m glad the US Open is next week.

    I was counting the days until I could run without heat. I went running this morning and it was only 45 degrees in the Rockies. No sweat, but a little too chilly.

    I haven’t been outside of Denver in almost 30 years, and I forgot how stunning it is here.

  16. Rio, Rio, Rio!!!!! Get typing and be warned, if you write too much and you think the post was lost it’s just held up in moderation. CofC can approve it. Mooshi had that problem with her Canada trip post.

  17. I agree that the culture of the work place has a lot to do with what you can do and/or feel comfortable doing. I would also be nuts if my computer locked me out! I wouldn’t mind the reminder, but not the lockout. When I was having shoulder issues, I had two exercises I had to do 4 times a day, but they were the stretching kind not the sweating kind, so I set an appointment on my calendar with a reminder notification.

    At my current employer, those who get paid overtime are to keep their scheduled hours – start, breaks, lunch, and departure – or notify the supervisor that they are going to be gone longer and how they will make up that time, while those who do not have more flexibility.

  18. LfB, I can totally understand the rationale for forced breaks.

    At my previous employer in SV, RSI (repetitive stress injuries, e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis) were a big problem, and they also tended to hit the highest performing, hardest working engineers. I saw several people have to take disability leaves due to RSI, and one person was never able to return to his job. DW had a scare, experiencing numbness and weakness, and had to dial back and take measures to make sure she took breaks.

    One colleague of DW had to stop mousing, so he developed a voice command system to do most of what he had done with his mouse. He developed laryngitis and lost his voice for a while.

    To this day, I keep a cup at my desk, and try to regularly fill and empty it. That creates a powerful reminder to get up and take a short break from the computer that is very difficult to ignore.

  19. Risley, if you’re reading, please let us know how your under desk cycle is working. I’d also appreciate a pointer to it– every since you told us about it, I’ve thought about getting one. Perhaps this discussion will push me further in that direction.

  20. I can’t find it now, but I recently read an article that said that one of the reasons we tend to gain weight as we get older isn’t that our metabolism is slowing down, it’s that our activity levels go down.

    While that might be begging the question a bit, since increased activity levels tend to increase metabolism, my takeaway was that I need to be a bit more proactive in incorporating activity into my daily routine, e.g., not sit at my desk for hours on end; instead, I should try to break that time up with even small amounts of activity, like walking to the water fountain more frequently (leading, of course, to more walks to the restroom).

  21. I own the elliptical linked in HM’s post, and that’s the one about which I commented earlier. It’s sitting unused in my family room. Maybe I’ll give it another try . . .

  22. Finn – my Desk Cycle is this one: https://www.amazon.com/DeskCycle-Exercise-Pedal-Exerciser-White/dp/B00B1VDNQA

    I also have the elliptical that HM posted. That’s at home, and doesn’t get as much use because I already work out at home, and also, I haven’t rigged up a good chair for it. You need something behind you, to keep you from moving backwards, and in my home office, there’s nothing behind my chair.

    The bike is at the office and I really love it. For a while, I was riding it all day long, every day. This summer, I’ve had a project that requires me to fool w/ a lot of files, move emails around (into a number of folders), etc, so I haven’t used the bike so much. It’s great if you don’t have a ton of typing to do or don’t need to move files. But if you have to do those things, it’s tricky, because your body moves while you bike, and that can make you drop the email into the wrong folder, etc. I should be better about using it when I have to read a long document, but lately, I’ve been standing up when I do that. I’m hoping that when my project is over this fall, I’ll get back into using the bike at work.

    I suffer from the illusion that if I work out hard, I can spend the rest of the day lolling around and doing nothing. Well, I don’t suffer from that illusion, actually – I know it’s not true. I suffer from the delusion that if I ignore its untruth, it’ll somehow suddenly become true. Finn’s statement about decreased activity vs decreased metabolism is a good reminder that I need to stop letting myself get away with the post-gym-lie-around-and-do-nothing that I love so much. Another reason to get back on the desk bike once this project wraps.

    And now my “friend date” is here to fetch me. We scrapped the coffee idea and are doing a wine tasting instead. Shall let you know how it goes, and if we decide on a third date …

  23. When I worked in DC, the downtown Y had a pool visible from the street. It was always packed at lunchtime but the hassle of managing showers and wet hair and changing out of the lady lawyer suit in the middle of the day was a deal-killer. It was easier to go after I got home, and I also had a mile walk on both ends of the commute. Working at home as a SAHM meant less regular exercise with kids too big to pop into the stroller. My friends who work at home have the same struggle some of you describe with less square footage during the day in which to force walking to restrooms and printers. Plus that kitchen is always there.

Comments are closed.