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Fitness at work can burn more calories

Stop by the Health 1st Wellness Wednesday table between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Aug. 13 in the Children’s Hospital lobby to learn more about exercise tips, triceps tips, chair squats and straight leg lifts.

by Janis Newton
Harper Student Wellness Center
Finding time in the day to exercise can be challenging, which is why it is one of the top three barriers to exercise. Lack of time also is the easiest excuse for not exercising. Still, more than 80 percent of people know that exercise is important to good health, but less than 30 percent exercise consistently enough to receive health benefits. H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”
Many of us spend most of the day at work, sometimes with odd schedules and long hours. It makes sense to take care of our bodies while we are there. Human bodies were made to move and not to sit for long periods of time. If you have a sedentary job, it is important to take mini-activity breaks throughout the day. It is easier than you think and can be done right at your desk. Even the busiest person can do this. It will make a difference in how you feel and how you perform your job. Besides providing an attitude adjustment, taking just five minutes every hour to get your blood circulating will boost your energy, help you concentrate better, be more productive, burn calories, boost your metabolism and add enjoyment to your job.
If you have a job that lets you move around throughout the day, then take those same activity breaks and organize them into a few minutes of meaningful bouts of strength, cardiovascular activity, stretching and de-stressing. Every little bit helps, but being consistent is the key.
It can be easy to incorporate exercise into the work day. Everyone may already realize the health benefits of parking further away to create opportunities to walk, or taking the stairs instead of elevator.
To expand opportunities to burn calories and boost cardio health on the job, consider the following tips for increasing consistency and movement during the workday:
  • First of all, you may need a little help changing your habits. Try setting an alarm on your computer, watch or cell phone to go off every hour to remind you it’s time for your five-minute fitness break. Take three to five minutes to move, stretch and de-stress.
  • Replace your office chair with a stability fitness ball. Ball chairs are available, but a firmly inflated fitness ball will work just as well. There are hundreds of quick exercises using the ball that improve balance, tone your core muscles and boost metabolism. Just sitting on the ball will promote better posture and require your waist and abdominal area to work while you are sitting.
  • Keep fitness equipment like resistance bands, a small medicine ball, or a pair of dumbbells in your work or break area. Choose exercises like bicep curls, front raises, seated rotations and do 20 repetitions. Use your chair to do triceps dips and seated leg raises. Concentrate on breathing, relaxing your shoulders and focus on the working muscles.
  • Practice body awareness. Always be thinking about what your body is doing. Be aware of your posture whether sitting or moving. If your job involves walking from place to place, pick up the pace—do it faster and always take the stairs. If your job involves sitting most of the time, stand up, walk to the door and back often.
  • Walk or ride a bike to work. If you ride the bus, get off a few stops early and walk part of the way.
  • Find co-workers who want to make a commitment to improving health and fitness.
  • Let your heart do what it does best. Get your blood pumping whenever possible. Use a pedometer and keep track of how many steps you take. Try using the restroom on another floor and take the stairs to get there. Do 10 desk push-ups, and 30 seconds of fast walking in place every hour.
  • Use the time when you are on the phone to do repetitions of stand-and-sit —like chair squats. You can also stand and do calf raises and calf stretches. This will help circulation in the legs and add to muscle tone and tension release.
  • Use time when you are waiting on your computer to print, or when you are not using your keyboard to do upper body stretches, shoulder circles and neck relaxation movements. 
Researchers agree that all exercise and movement are important in our lives. By incorporating the above suggestions, you could burn an extra 200-plus calories per day. Add 20-30 minute walks or bike rides to your week and you will make significant changes in your health and decrease potential weight gain.
To reverse obesity, overweight and chronic disease, it is necessary to develop strategies to increase all physical activity and movement during the waking hours, even while at work. 

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
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