Most of us don’t think of the workday as a time to exercise. We sit at our desks, work at the computer, then head home to the kids or other responsibilities. However, nine-to-five can actually be a great time to fit in a short but effective workout, perhaps during your lunch hour. Studies show that exercising during the workday improves performance, satisfaction, and attitude — a much better use of your break time than playing Candy Crush or scrolling through Facebook. For those with little spare time, office hours might even be the ideal time of the day for a workout.
When your schedule is packed, the office can be one of the best places to exercise. No matter how busy you get, you can almost always count on having a lunch break. Setting aside just 15 minutes to exercise in the middle of the workday will give you a boost of natural energy that will leave you looking and feeling fit, healthy, and refreshed (unlike a sugary energy drink or another cup of coffee).
First, get the right equipment. An office workout requires nothing more than some basic, portable equipment that you can easily stash in a drawer or bring from home. For push-ups, a pair of simple push-up bars (sturdy handles that stand upright on the ground) will give you a nice, wide range of motion while working out multiple muscle groups in your arms, chest, and back. They also encourage proper technique and prevent the discomfort in the wrists that can come from pressing the hands flat against the ground.
The resistance band, a stretchy rubber tube with handles on either end, is great for working out the legs and additional muscles in the arms. And, thanks to its collapsible, lightweight design, it can easily fit in the smallest drawer in your desk.
Don’t underestimate simple tools like this.
Push-ups are a familiar and effective body weight exercise that work out the chest and arm muscles. Set your push-up bars a little more than a shoulder width apart, grip them, extend your legs, and raise your body so that you are balanced on your toes and the push-up bars. If you don’t feel comfortable fully extending your legs and balancing on your toes, you can try balancing on your knees instead. Then, lower yourself until your arms are folded at your sides and push back up.
Breathe out on the way up; breathe in on the way down. Settling into a rhythm will make it easier to keep going. Push up in a slow, controlled movement and lower yourself back down the same way. Do a set of 15—or as many as it takes until you feel fatigued—and then repeat as you like.
Exercises using the resistance band can be done without even getting up from your chair. Loop the band once around your feet, keeping your legs outstretched somewhat, grab the handles so that your palms face downward, and pull upwards and back with your arms in a rowing motion.
You get more out of exercises like this than you put into them. This motion works both the arms and back, and even gets the chest and abdominals involved. Again, do 10 or 15 of these, or until you tire out, and then repeat.
To work the shoulders, or deltoids, pin the middle of the resistance band securely to the ground with your feet and raise your arms over your shoulders. Take care not to raise them until they’re directly above your head, or you won’t gain the full benefit of the exercise.
The idea of the resistance band is to strengthen your muscles using — surprise — resistance. In order to maximize your results, you want to make sure that you’re pulling against the band at all times. If you find yourself moving into a position where your muscles are no longer struggling against it, take that part out of the routine! Just like with the push-ups, take three counts to raise your arms and three counts to lower them.
Who doesn’t want stronger arms? To work the biceps, wrap the band around your feet once like in the rowing exercise, only this time gripping the handles so that your palms face toward the ceiling. Then, while keeping your feet flat on the ground, bring the handles up and back toward your armpits, curling your arms in a motion similar to lifting dumbbells.
To work the triceps, we’ll have to get a little more creative. Keep the resistance band looped around your feet, release the right handle, and pull the other end so that the right handle is pulled to the edge of your sole, lengthening the other side of the band. Then, grab the left handle with your opposite hand, raising your arm so that it forms a right angle above your head with your palm facing the ceiling. Simply extend your arm straight upwards a few times, and you should feel the burn in your triceps. Then switch sides and repeat until satisfied.
Warren Honeycutt is the author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss