More than 80% of the American workforce has a sedentary job that entails sitting pretty much all day long—sometimes for upward of 10 hours at a time with very little intermittent movement. While our ancestors had to walk everywhere to do anything, we've become a nation of butts glued to chairs—and the resulting effect on our bodies hasn’t been pretty (ahem, see pancake butt). The cumulative lack of physical activity throughout the workweek can quickly contribute to unwanted weight gain and changes in shape and endurance—like the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling winded (not to mention health complications like increased risk of stroke and diabetes). But no matter how inherently sedentary your job is, there are ways to get more movement throughout your day. Keep scrolling for 11 simple and effective ways to combat the effects of a sedentary desk job!
How not to let your desk job get the best of your body:
• Drink tons and tons and tons of water. It's a win-win all around. Not only will you stay super-hydrated and healthy (and likely crave fewer sugar-spiking office snacks, since thirst and dehydration are often confused with hunger), but it will also literally force you to get up to go to the bathroom. Having to stand up to pee 10 times a day: A pain in the ass? Yes. In the name of a better butt? Definitely. It's a surefire way to outsmart yourself into standing up as often as you're supposed to throughout the day (once an hour), at a minimum, plus you get the extra steps of walking to and from the bathroom. Bonus? If you work in an office, opt to go to the bathroom on a different floor, and take the stairs there and back.
• On that note, always take the stairs. Just do it. You are sitting still for almost half your day—the very least you can do to engage your thighs and calves and butt is give them the upward motion of climbing a stair as often as you would otherwise be standing passively in an elevator.
• Do 15 squats every time you go to the bathroom. Squats are one of the single best body-transforming exercises that exist and consistently make trainers' and fitness pros' "if you only do five exercises ever, do these" lists. They need no equipment, can be done discreetly in a bathroom or stairwell, and require very little space, since you're not extending any limbs. Every little bit counts!
• Do calf raises at your desk. You don't even have to move from your chair or interrupt what you're doing, and no one will be able to see. Just lift your calves 20-30 times once an hour, or every time you remember.
• Schedule meetings for the conference room farthest from your desk so you have to take more steps to get there. If you work from home, schedule meetings at coffee shops nearby that you can walk to.
• On that note, walk on your lunch hour. It doesn't matter if it's five minutes, 10, 20, or 30; just do some walking. Walk to get lunch itself, or take a walk around the block. Make a walking call with your headphones in, or pull up a document on your phone and read it while walking. If you've been needing to meet with a co-worker, suggest a walk-and-talk instead of a sitting meeting.
• Print things to the farthest-away printer so you have to get up and walk to it.
• Go talk to people in person instead of emailing them when you need something or have a quick message.
• Swap your chair out for an exercise ball or your desk for a standing desk, if it's something your workplace allows.
• If you have a private office, keep a set of weights at your desk and do bicep curls and standing push-ups with your hands on your desk. Even if your desk isn't private, lifting things throughout the day will engage your arm muscles so they're not so sedentary.
• Do leg lifts at your desk. Extend one leg out straight in front while sitting, and lift it 15 times, keeping your abs tight and squeezing your quadricep muscle. Then do the other.
Do you have any tricks for sneaking activity into a sedentary desk job? Share them in the comments below! And click to shop our deskside beauty essentials.