How to Maintain an Active Lifestyle When Working Remotely
When I first started working from home, I thought it would be a dream come true. No more waking up early to beat traffic, no more uncomfortable office chairs, and bye-bye to the need to wear pants.
But… I didn't realise that the incidental physical activity that came with working in an office kept me healthy.
In the office, I was constantly on the move. I would take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk around to meetings, or go for a coffee run with colleagues. These small moments of movement kept my energy up, my mind focused, and my metabolism chugging along.
At home, I sat in front of my computer for hours on end without any reason to get up and move around. I quickly realised that my sedentary lifestyle was taking a toll on my physical and mental health.
By most mid-mornings, my mind was feeling foggy and low on energy. And my waistline wasn’t heading in the direction I was happy with.
I decided to incorporate more physical activity into my work-from-home routine.
I started taking short walks during lunch breaks, doing quick workouts throughout the day, and even invested in a standing desk.
By making these small changes, I significantly improved my overall health and well-being. I had more energy, could focus better on my work, and felt more creative. And, perhaps most importantly, my waistline shrank.
The importance of physical activity
Sitting for prolonged periods can negatively affect your health, including increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also lead to a reduced range of motion in your joints and decreased fitness and strength.
Unfortunately, the downsides of prolonged inactivity are not just physical.
Brain imaging studies show that sitting for long periods can adversely affect brain function and our focus, energy, creativity and productivity. And if that’s not depressing enough, sedentary behaviour is also linked to decreasing in regions of the brain that are critical to memory formation.
As Caroline Williams explains in her book MOVE - How The New Science of Body Movement Can Set Your Mind Free, exercise, as we currently think of it, isn't enough to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
So, what can you do to combat the adverse effects of prolonged sitting?
Strategies for staying active when working remotely
Exercise snacking is a great way to incorporate physical activity into your workday. Not only are you improving your physical health and potentially adding years to your life. You're also improving your focus, energy and productivity throughout the day.
Exercise snacking involves taking short breaks throughout the day to perform 3-5 minutes of physical activity with cardio, strength or flexibility exercises.
A cardio movement snack could be as simple as walking in the yard or the house, marching on the spot or, if you have them where you work, walking up and down the stairs.
But you don’t have it at that. With some creativity (or the right tech), you can do an endless variety of movement snacks that suit your personality and needs.
Three movement snacks to try today
1. Cardio movement snack
Cardio movements is essential to elevate your heart rate to move blood and oxygen around the body to improve metabolism.
1. Squat Jumps - 30 seconds
2. Running in Place - 30 seconds
3. Jumping Rope with or without a rope - 30 seconds
4. Pulsing Squats - 30 seconds
5. Standing Mountain Climbers - 30 second
Pro tip: Stand next to your desk and get your heart rate up by completing the following exercises for one or two rounds, resting as needed in between exercises.
1. Squat Jumps
- Begin in a standing position with feet hip-width apart.
- Lower your body down into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Make sure your knees are behind your toes, your back is straight, and your core is engaged for stability
- As you push up from the squat position, explode into a jump motion, raising your arms above your head.
- Once you land, immediately go back into a squat position and repeat for 30 seconds.
Squat jumps are a plyometric exercise that work to strengthen your leg muscles and improve explosive power. By engaging your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, you'll be building overall endurance while burning calories.
2. Running in Place
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and keep them close to your sides.
- Bring your left knee up to your chest while simultaneously raising your right elbow to meet it.
- Place your left foot back to the floor, then raise your right knee to meet your left elbow.
- Keep alternating this motion, quickly raising and lowering your knees for 30 seconds.
3. Jumping Rope (with or without a rope)
- Hold the ends of a jump rope in each hand, with the rope behind you.
- Bend your knees slightly and keep your feet close together.
- Swing the rope overhead while jumping off the ground and passing the rope under your feet.
- Land softly and continue swinging the rope and jumping for 30 seconds.
Alternatively, if you don't have a rope, mimic the same jumping motions with both hands in the air.
4. Pulsing Squats
- Begin in a standing position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Lower your body down into a squat position, keeping your core engaged and your back straight.
- Hold this position and pulse up and down in small movements for 30 seconds before returning to a standing position.
5. Standing Mountain Climbers
- Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
- Place your hands in front of you, in a mountain climber position.
- Quickly alternate bringing your right and left knee to your chest while keeping your core tight and your back straight.
- Keep alternating for 30 seconds.
2. Strength movement snack
Shake up the “sleeping” sitting muscles, release tension, and build strength.
- Single Leg Wall Sit - 30 seconds per side
- Chair Planks - 30 seconds
- Chest Squeeze - 30 seconds
- Isometric Door Frame Pull - 30 seconds per side
Pro tip: Use a wall and a doorframe. Complete the exercises back to back for one or two rounds. Resting as needed in between exercises.
1. Single Leg Wall Sit
- Stand with your back against a wall and your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a small step forward with your left foot and raise your right foot off the ground.
- Slowly lower your body into a seated position, keeping your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds before switching legs.
2. Chair Planks
- Find a chair and place your forearms on the seat with your palms facing down.
- Step your feet back so you are in a straight line from head to toe.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, engaging your core by keeping your hips level and your back flat.
3. Chest Squeeze
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a small ball or pillow against your chest.
- Squeeze the ball with both hands as hard as you can, engaging your chest muscles.
- Hold this squeeze for 30 seconds before relaxing.
4. Isometric Doorframe Pull
- Stand facing a door frame.
- Reach your arm up and grab onto the top of the frame with your hand.
- Begin pulling down on the frame as hard as you can while engaging your back and arm muscles.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds before switching arms.
3. Flexibility movement snack
Open up your chest muscles to release tension and improve your breathing.
- Chest Butterflies - 30 seconds per side
- Chest Opening & Closing - 30 seconds per side
- Shoulder Circles - 30 seconds per side
- Elbows Out Chest Stretch - 30 seconds per side
- Elbow to Elbow Chest Stretch - 30 seconds per side
Pro tip: Complete the exercises back to back for one round.
1. Chest Butterflies
- Stand straight with your arms out to your sides parallel to the ground.
- Bring your arms in front of your chest and clasp your hands together.
- Open your arms wide, keeping them straight as if you were stretching your chest muscles.
- Bring your arms back in front of your chest and repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
2. Chest Opening & Closing
- Stand upright with your arms behind your back and your hands clasped together.
- Lift your arms away from your body, stretching your chest as wide as possible.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side for 30 seconds.
3. Shoulder Circles
- Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
- Lift your right shoulder up and move it in a circle, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left shoulder, completing one shoulder circle.
- Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.
4. Elbows Out Chest Stretch
- Put arms behind your head, with fingers interlaced and elbows pointing outwards
- Pull your elbows back
- Bring your shoulder blades together and look up at the ceiling.
5. Elbow to elbow Chest Stretch
- Start in a seated or standing position, begin with arms hanging by your sides and shoulders down
- Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and broaden the chest
- Bring the arms behind the back and grip elbow to elbow.Hold the position.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then release.
We're biased, but you should download StretchMinder to remind you to take movement breaks throughout the day. StretchMinder offers a variety of exercises and stretches that you can do right at or around your desk. And if variety is indeed the spice of life, StretchMinder is the ultimate condiment.
Tips for Staying Motivated
Set daily goals for yourself
A goal could be to hit a certain number of steps each day, setting a target for a total movement time for each day or committing to a 3-minute movement snack for each hour you spend sitting.
You can also use something like Apple Health and aim to close your activity ring each day. Whatever goal you choose, having a measurable goal to work towards can help keep you motivated and accountable.
Create a daily movement schedule to stay on track
Block time in your calendar for exercise or movement breaks, and treat them as you would any other appointment. You can also enlist the support of colleagues or friends by setting up virtual workout dates or accountability check-ins.
Be proactive about staying active when working remotely
It’s easy to regress into a sedentary lifestyle when working remotely without needing to move away from your desk. And that’s why it’s vital to be proactive about incorporating physical activity into your work-from-home routine.
You don’t want to wake up five years from now and wonder what happened to your health and waistline.
Finding ways to keep your body moving throughout the day can help combat the negative physical and psychological effects of prolonged sitting. While also adding years to your life [link the add years to your life blog here].
Remember to set goals for yourself, create a daily exercise schedule, and enlist the support of colleagues or friends to help you stay.
To save yourself some mental energy, access a well-rounded movement snack plan, and never second guess what to do with your exercise snacks, download StretchMinded to help you stay active when working from home.