How to exercise at work without messing up the whole day

Despite the seismic shift toward remote work culture in the last three years, people are (albeit reluctantly) returning to the office. That might be good news for those who like to catch up on the water cooler, but not so good news for people who have been exercising between Zoom meetings.

So what does this mean for your midweek workouts? With a little planning, you can still maintain your weekday routine, even if you’ve gone back to a desk.

There is also a solid reason to do so. Prioritizing exercise can actually make you better at work: Employees who moved more showed increases in productivity and efficiency and a reduction in absenteeism in a 2017 study published in BMC Public Health. And those who exercised during work hours were not only better at managing time, but also more satisfied with their jobs, according to previous research from the International journal of workplace health management found.

But making time for a routine that will make you feel better, and won’t stress you out, can be a little tricky. It is hard but not impossible. We chatted with fitness, nutrition, and HR professionals to get tips on how to make a workday workout work for you.

1. First, decide when you will exercise during the day.

There is no best time to exercise during the day, it all depends on your schedule and what is feasible at your workplace, but for many people it will be around lunchtime.

If you work in an environment where people often leave for “lunch break,” this might be the easiest time to get away, since you can just walk out. If not, you may want to talk to your manager about the time block first. “Be very specific about what you’re asking for and why,” says Greg Hill, director of people at Exos, a Tempe, Arizona-based performance brand that trains professional athletes and corporate clients. “The example I often use is, ‘I’m asking to schedule an hour for myself two or three times a week, and that’s why I think it would be good for me and the team.’” If you have to be gone for more than an hour, you can also ask about the flexibility to make up the extra time later.

“I have clients in different time zones, so if I work out in the middle of the day and need to work a little harder at night, I’m okay with that; in fact, it’s a good balance,” Charly Rok, a vice president at Edelman in New York City who runs every day during the workday, tells himself.

Once you get the green light, treat that time like anything else on your schedule. “Block your calendar, that’s the most important part of getting out there and doing it,” says Hill.

If you have the kind of job where getting out for an hour or so will stress you out more than it will relieve you, consider taking small breaks, like 20 minutes for a quick workout in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon. says Hill. Basically, you’re looking for any moment that allows you to feel strong and focused instead of unfocused and exhausted.

2. Make an exercise plan for the week.

Successfully integrating exercise into your day may require rethinking what a “workout” is in your mind. “Every workout counts, no matter how small,” Kelly Borowiec, an ACE-certified personal trainer based in San Francisco, tells SELF. Even short bouts come with benefits like increased energy, less stress, and better blood flow, she says. Any amount of physical activity brings benefits.

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