If you work a 9-to-5 job, you know that an eight-hour workday can easily take ten or eleven hours when you factor in getting ready for work, your lunch break, and your commute to and from the office.
By that point, you just want to get home and eat dinner and watch TV and go to bed. And what do you do all day at the office?
Odds are you are chained to a desk, which hardly makes it easy to stay in shape. There are a lot of guides to quick workouts you can do while you are at the office, but how do you make the most of the limited time you do have?
Here are 16 fitness hacks designed for busy workers just like you.
1. Take regular breaks to stand or walk around.
While this might not sound like much of a hack, it is. Why?
Even though standing up every half hour to stretch and walk in a circle around your desk won’t get you into shape, it will help prevent your muscles and joints from cramping up.
Research on our modern sedentary lifestyles indicates that sitting too long too often can result in chronic health problems. Regularly walking around and getting the blood flowing will help you stay limber, and prevent injuries when you do have a chance to work out.
2. Sit with a good posture and follow ergonomic practices.
This is related to the advice above.
If you adopt a poor posture for 8 hours a day at the office, you can develop neck, back and shoulder problems, and even carpal tunnel. And then, when you finally find a chance to go to the gym, you can injure yourself because your joints are out of alignment.
Keep your workouts injury-free by keeping an ergonomic posture throughout the day, even when you are stuck at your desk.
3. Invest in a calorie counter.
Calorie counter watches are a great innovation for 9-to-5 workers.
There is a whole range of watches available in different price ranges with a variety of features. Many of these watches will fulfill a range of functions—everything from telling you how many calories you are burning during the course of a day to how well you are sleeping at night.
Why is this helpful?
Because with a calorie counter watch, you can efficiently track your progress toward your goals and remind yourself of what you need to do each day to succeed. This ultimately ends up saving you a ton of time.
Check out a list cross-comparing different watches and features to figure out which might be a fit for you.
4. Log what you’re eating.
This is another good tip for tracking your progress toward weight loss and fitness goals. Remember, what you are eating doesn’t just impact how much weight you put on or lose, but also can impact your metabolism and bodybuilding efforts.
What goes into your digestive tract can make a huge difference in how effective your workouts are. When you are pressed for time, it is essential to make the most of every exercise session.
5. Keep a set of workout clothes at work.
Don’t give yourself an excuse not to work out after work or on your lunch break! When you keep workout clothes at the office, “I forgot my sweatpants” is never an excuse you can use again.
Bring a gym towel too and anything else you need to get through your workout. This is a lot more efficient than going all the way home to get your workout stuff before heading back out to the gym and then home again. Who has time for that?
6. Substitute walking for driving wherever possible.
Even if you cannot find time to workout, try to steer clear of time shortcuts that also make you even more sedentary. In other words, try parking your car in the back of the lot at the office or the grocery store. That way you force yourself to walk all the way to the door and back.
Skip the elevator or escalator and take the stairs instead. Walk to a restaurant across the street for lunch instead of driving to one. Walk across the office to have a conversation with a co-worker instead of calling them or using chat online.
Habits like these can really make a difference, even though they aren’t quite the same as “working out.” They still help you to become less sedentary.
7. Come up with a regular schedule.
If you go into each day without a plan for how and when you are going to exercise, you are not going to find the time. Instead, you will find excuses.
You will get to the end of each day and think, “Well, I simply didn’t find the time today; there was no way I could have done it. I’ll do better tomorrow.”
If you really want to do better tomorrow, one of the best things you can do is figure out a daily window for exercise. This might vary based on work and chore schedules throughout the week.
Maybe the best time is during lunch on Monday through Friday and in the morning on Saturday and Sunday. Or perhaps the best time to do it is right after work.
Either way, mark it in your calendar, set alerts, and do what you need to do to seize that moment of opportunity. If you have a programmable calorie counter wrist watch that allows you to set reminders, you can set one for your workout time.
8. Start with weekends.
If you absolutely can’t imagine working out on your workdays, then start by doing it on the weekends.
You don’t have to commit to exercising seven days a week right away. In fact, a couple of days for rest throughout the week are wise over the long term, even if you really get into working out.
Start with just a couple of days a week, and then try to push that up to three or four days, maybe even five. Keep it small if you have to.
Your goal is to start a routine that you won’t be tempted to quit. You can build off of that as you adapt to it over time. If you try to take on too much too quickly, you will just get overwhelmed and quit.
9. Exercise for short time periods.
When I say “short,” that doesn’t mean half an hour instead of an hour.
Assuming you are really pressed for time as a professional, you may not be able to imagine adding half an hour a day for exercise. But surely you can add ten minutes. Most people waste at least ten minutes a day doing something unnecessary.
Instead of taking a ten-minute break to play a game on Facebook, why not use that ten-minute break to exercise? If you put serious effort in for just 10 minutes four or five times a week, you’ll be on your way to making real progress.
Over time, you might be able to build that up to 15 to 20 minutes. Maybe eventually you will even hit that half-hour mark. Even if you don’t, though, you’ll be working out more than you are now if you are completely sedentary!
10. Use the internet.
The internet is an amazing resource if you are a busy professional who is pressed for time and money.
If you do not have the time or money to take classes in yoga, dance, pilates or something else which interests you, just search online and you will find an abundance of free video tutorials.
Some of them are five minutes while others might last an hour. That means that no matter how much or how little time you have to spare, you can learn and follow along with something new. You can do this from the comfort of your home or even from the office!
11. Pick something that gives you stress relief.
If you don’t enjoy what you do, there is no way you are going to stick with it. Odds are you are already dealing with high levels of stress from your job.
If your exercise routine adds to your stress levels, you are going to burn out before long. What you want to do ideally is find an exercise routine that actually subtracts from your stress levels and offers you relief.
That way you will look forward to exercising, and will actually do it because you want to, and not just because you feel like you have to.
Tai chi, yoga, and pilates are all great examples of workouts that many people feel relieve stress. But anything can relieve stress if you enjoy it!
12. Do two things at once.
Trying to decide whether to work out or read a book after work? Why not do both?
With books on tape, you can jog on the treadmill or practice your yoga poses and catch up on your reading simultaneously. This is a wonderful way to reclaim your time and make the most of it.
“I’m behind on my reading” will no longer be an excuse not to work out. In fact, if you want to catch up on your audiobook, you’ll want to exercise!
13. Keep a workout journal.
One great way to keep yourself motivated with your workout routine is to keep a journal. A journal serves a few different purposes.
Firstly, you can log quantitative results of your workouts, like how many calories you have lost. This can be very encouraging to see!
Secondly, you can see what routines are working and which ones are not. That way you can focus on what is having the best results and stop wasting your time with exercises that are not working out for you.
Finally, looking back at your successful workout schedule proves to you that you can work out, and you do have the time going forward to keep it up!
14. Subscribe to fitness sites.
Keep yourself inspired!
Subscribe to RSS feeds and newsletters for fitness sites and YouTube channels that feature exercises that you are interested in. You’ll regularly learn new tips and tricks that way that help you maintain your busy workout schedule, and you’ll also see new exercises you want to try.
You won’t be able to wait until your next workout session, you’ll be so excited to see what you’re capable of!
15. Try something social.
Another great tip for busy professionals is to make exercise sessions a social event. Find some gym pals you can work out with, or sign up for fitness classes with a friend or two. This is yet another way you can double up and make more of the time you have.
You won’t be stuck on the weekend anymore trying to decide whether to socialize or exercise, because you will be able to do both at once.
Working out with a partner has other benefits too. It makes exercising more fun, because the time flies by while you are chatting.
If you are both competitive, you may push each other to new heights of accomplishments. You also can help keep each other focused on your goals and motivated!
What you find difficult or impossible on your own may come within your reach if you try to work out with a friend or co-worker.
16. Reward yourself for your hard work.
One of the great things about exercising is that unlike with your day job, you are your own boss.
Your work boss may not reward you for all your efforts on the job, but you can reward yourself for all your exercise achievements! If you have finally met a certain calorie goal or weight loss goal, or you have finally put on some solid muscle or learned a new exercise, do something nice for yourself!
Treat yourself to a day out on the town, purchase something special you have wanted for a long time, go out for dinner somewhere nice, or go to a movie or a concert.
Transforming your life and creating healthy habits is a challenge, especially when you work long hours. If you actually achieve your goals and reach new milestones, you deserve to celebrate!