Five-Minute Workouts Perfect for the Office

Pop quiz: How many hours per day does the average American spend not moving?

  • About 7 hours
  • About 9 hours
  • About 17 hours

If you said 7, you’d be right … about time spent sleeping. And if you said 9, you’d be right … about time spent sitting. But the truth is in the balance. Most Americans spend a total of 17 hours either sitting or sleeping each day.

This sedentary lifestyle comes at a high price, leading to loss of muscle and bone strength and to added risk of diabetes and heart disease. In fact, the World Health Organization said that 3.2 million deaths can be attributed to a lack of physical activity.

What’s an employee to do? Well, given that we spend one-third of our lives at work, any changes we make on the job have enormous potential to add to our health. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.

1.  Stand up and stretch.

To increase your mental focus as well as your physical health, try the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes; this unit of time is your “pomodoro.” Every time you complete one pomodoro of work, take five minutes to stand up, reach for the ceiling, roll your shoulders, touch your toes, and rest your eyes.

There are many apps Pomodoro supports that help with mental focus. View a list suggested apps.

2. Get your heart pumping.

Got stairs? Go run ‘em. A short burst of intense physical activity can bring profound benefits for your fitness as well as your mental health.

» Stairs not an option? Sub this out with squats. Sit in your chair, stand up, and repeat – or for greater intensity, do a full squat. For variety, alternate squats with calf raises. Other options might include pushups, the invisible jump rope, and desk-side dips.

3. Do a secret ab workout.

If exercising in public gives you nerves, there are ways subtly to work out your abdominal muscles. These are the muscles that wrap your torso like a belt, providing the core strength you need for any activity you may do – from sitting at your desk, to washing dishes, to running a triathlon.

How to do it: Pull your belly button in toward your spine and hold it in place while you take a full breath. You know you’ve got the right muscle group when you can do this without constricting your breath. From there, experiment with how long you can keep the muscle engaged and how many times you can contract and release in a row.

Want something to add? This exercise can be combined with Kegels, another invisible workout. You can do these moves sitting, standing, on the phone, in a meeting, wherever – and a little effort can result in a lot of core strength.