Health Tips > Fitness Files > Exercising at Work

Exercising at Work

View All Section Pages

Man stretching at desk.

Exercise. We all know we need it. But it can be a struggle to find the time to do it.

To squeeze in a workout, you can get up early to work out, or hope you have enough energy after work to hit the gym. Exercising during your lunchbreak might be ideal, but it may be hard to get away from the office or there may not be any workout facilities nearby. The good news is your workplace can become your gym. Many exercises can be done at work during short breaks. 

“It’s not quite as effective as going to the gym,” Patrick Fisher, Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer said. “But working out at the office is still totally worth doing. You can reap plenty of rewards.”

A 2018 study by the University of Michigan found that exercising during work could lead to more happiness. It can even make you better at your job according to this 2017 study published in BMC Public Health journal, which found prioritizing exercise resulted in an increase in productivity and efficiency during work.

Even a 10-minute workout can boost our energy for the entire day.

Deciding when to work out

Pick something that works for your schedule. The go-to is often during lunch, taking mini breaks may better fit your work schedule. A short workout in the morning and another short workout in the afternoon is all it takes.

“Whatever your schedule allows or whatever workout you can manage it’ll still be beneficial,” Fisher said. “You can use it as a lighter training day or an active recovery day if you don’t have much time. Anything is better than nothing.”

Focus on shorter workouts instead of the usual 45–60-minute routine. They can be anywhere from 30 minutes or less.

“Go for a five-minute walk even if you can’t get a workout in,” Fisher said. “It’s good to stand up and get the blood flowing and relieve stress and anxiety.”

Walk the halls, up and down the stairs or go outside if your workplace is conducive to walking outdoors.

If that’s too much time away from the office, think about getting a stability ball or a standing desk. Both get us out of our office chairs and sitting for prolonged periods can weaken certain parts of our body, like our back and hips.

“I’ve had clients tell me their back pain and posture improved just by switching to a standing desk,” Fisher said. “It’s not smart to sit in the same position all day.”

Workout plan

If your workplace doesn’t have a gym, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in some exercise.

“Use some creativity,” Fisher said. “Anything from a chair, desk or even the wall can be used for exercise. You can even bring smaller items like a mat, foam roller or exercise tube to make your desk workouts better.” 

Some examples of exercises to do at the office that require the bare minimum are:

  • Chest stretch – Stand straight up with your chest high. Clasp your fingers behind your back and pull your hands down to the ground.
  • Core rotation – Stand up and face your chair. Place one foot on the chair with a 90-degree bend in the leg. Rotate your chest toward the leg in the chair. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then repeat with your other leg. 
  • Calf stretch – Hold onto the back of your chair. Step back with one foot keeping your leg straight and both heels on the ground. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
  • Push-ups – You can perform these on the floor or use your desk and chair for gravity assistance.

For a demonstration of these exercises, watch this Exercise Move video from Professional Fitness Trainer Angela Horner.

Staying fueled for your workout

Before working out, eating a small snack with carbohydrates 15 to 30 minutes before your workout provides an extra boost of energy. 

Just as important, it’s not a good idea to work out immediately following a big meal. It can cause stomach issues as the blood pumps to your working muscles as opposed to your GI tract, which can slow down digestion and lead to cramping, diarrhea and other uncomfortable GI issues.

After exercising, eat protein-rich food to help replenish energy and to promote muscle and tissue recovery. For more pre- and post-workout nutrition recommendations, read Cooper Clinic Nutrition’s “Fueling Properly for Exercise” article.

No matter what your daily work schedule entails, using these tips to move more can make your workday healthier and more productive.  
For more information on personal training or to schedule a session with a professional fitness trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.