How to exercise during the workday (and why it's important)
Exercise. We all know we need it. Many of us dread it. And nearly all of us struggle to find time to do it.
Unlike sleeping, exercise isn’t necessarily something that’s going to happen to us every day. We have to actively find time to fit it in. And many people are finding ways to do it during the activity that takes up most of their day: work.
Exercise during the day and you’ll look better, feel better and even work better. These benefits have long been known.
Researchers conducting a 2008 study in the UK found that that more than 200 employees who had access to and used a company gym were more productive during the day, and went home feeling more satisfied on the days they exercised during regular work hours.
In 2013, another study showed that regardless of age, people experience “immediate benefits” for cognition following “a single bout of moderate exercise”, such as 15 minutes of moderately intense cycling on a stationary bike. These findings suggest that working out during the day could be even better than bookending gym time before or after the office.
That’s on top of all the regular benefits to physical activity, including weight loss, better sleep, better sex, better mood and keeping diseases at bay.
Peter Antonio, a personal trainer, fitness instructor and registered nutritionist at the University of Birmingham Sport, the physical fitness arm of the UK university, calls ducking out of work during your lunch break to exercise a “golden opportunity”.
安东尼奥（Peter Antonio）是英国伯明翰大学（University of Birmingham）健身俱乐部的私人教练、健身教练和注册营养师，该俱乐部是这所大学的健身机构。安东尼奥把在午休时间停下工作去锻炼称为“黄金机会”。
Not only does it help his clients’ over-arching fitness goals, but it “gives you a mid-day sense of accomplishment which can last for the remainder of the day”, he says. Antonio adds that clients who exercise during the day find they get more work done and take fewer sick days. Plus, it’s good for mental health, providing a stress-free getaway from the daily typhoon of meetings and emails.
Some people make a similar argument to preserve break time and physical education at primary and secondary schools. Research there, too, suggests that taking a break from repetitive tasks and getting away from the classroom grind helps pupils pay attention and perform better.
But the personal perks are just the beginning. Workday exercise could also provide benefits on a more macro level.
There’s been discussion among health organisations and business leaders around whether we should make exercise compulsory at work to fight bigger societal health problems that filter into the workplace. More than 20 million people in the UK, for instance, are physically inactive, which costs the National Health Service £1.2bn ($1.5bn) a year, according to the British Heart Foundation.
健康组织和商界领袖一直在讨论，我们是否应该强制规定在上班时间健身，以应对渗入工作场所的更大的社会健康问题。例如根据英国心脏基金会（British Heart Foundation）的数据，在英国，因为超过2000万人缺乏体育运动，让英国国家医疗服务体系（National Health Service）每年需耗资12亿英镑。
Tech CEO Ryan Holmes, who runs social media platform HootSuite, wrote an opinion piece a few years back that went viral, titled “Why It’s Time We Paid Employees to Exercise at Work”.
社交媒体平台互随（HootSuite）的技术首席执行官霍姆斯（Ryan Holmes）几年前曾写过一篇表达他观点并广为传播的文章，题为《为什么我们该付钱让员工在工作时间锻炼身体》（Why It's Time We Paid Employees to Exercise at Work）。
In it, he called for on-the-clock exercise that’s implemented from the top. After all, he says, it’s hard to maintain a robust team if people are dying of preventable heart diseases, cancers and respiratory afflictions because they’re out of shape.
How to do it
Christian Allen lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and runs a start-up that provides companies with customer service tools. He says his preferred time to lift weights, do yoga or run is during the work day. But finding groups of like-minded people who prioritise fitness breaks during working hours has made it easier.
“I can say without reservation that I’ve always felt happier and healthier during my 19 years at a desk job when I’ve been working out regularly,” he says.
For the last six years, he’s organised a group through the website Meetup that gathers at noon every weekday for a game of football. He got the idea during one lunch break at his old job, when he stumbled across a group playing midday soccer.
“At the time, I was running a few days a week at lunch with some co-workers, but I liked the idea of mixing something completely different into that routine.”
Allen’s not alone. Workplaces are increasingly changing in a way that might make a lunch-hour workout more feasible for many of us.
More companies are offering gyms on office premises. Some gyms themselves are attaching workspaces onto their main facilities. Luxury gym chain Equinox is one example, offering big tables and juice bars that lure remote workers and freelancers to set up laptops in sight of treadmills and elliptical machines. Some start-up companies are even setting up shop in these spaces as their main offices.
Still, what if you can’t afford to take a whole hour (or more) off? That’s okay C experts say there are smaller ways of weaving exercise into your day, and you don’t need a fancy office fitness centre either.
“Whether it’s five minutes or an hour of movement, there are real health benefits to any type of activity during the work day,” says Sandy Todd Webster, editor-in-chief of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, a San Diego-based organisation that connects more than 14,000 personal trainers and fitness professionals around the world. “If you are able to walk or power yourself forward by some means, do it. You don’t need a gym. Movement opportunities are everywhere,” she says.
“不管是五分钟或一个小时的运动，在上班时间做任何类型的活动都对健康有好处，”IDEA健康与健身协会（IDEA Health & Fitness Association）的总主编韦伯斯特（Sandy Todd Webster）说。该机构位于圣地亚哥（San Diego），为14000多名世界各地的私人教练和运动专家建立了联系。她说，“如果你能走路或以某种费力气的方式前行，那就去做。你不需要健身房。到处都有运动的机会。”
“Keep a pair of athletic shoes and socks at work and just get out there and move on your breaks or whenever you can get away for five, 10 or 20 minutes,” adds Todd Webster. “If you work in a building with stairs, always use the stairs or take a longer route to your office. It all adds up.”
No matter what your individual goals or office circumstances, experts say getting an hour’s exercise during the day should be viewed with the same importance as a work meeting.
“The key is to schedule the time,” says Todd Webster. “Literally write the workout into your calendar C and then hold that appointment as sacred.”
Still, all this can be easier said than done. And not just because some bosses may be inflexible or you might not have access to a much-needed post-gym shower.
Some jobs make it hard to be away from your desk. (This might be one of the many reasons why remote working is up in recent years.) Allen says he’s been lucky to work at places that promote work-life balance, but it hasn’t always been easy. Erratic work schedules can wreak havoc on exercise breaks, and there’s also the potential impact on colleagues.
“I’ve always worked as part of a team,” he says, so he’s needed to be cognisant of how leaving for a brief workout might affect his colleagues’ workload. “I’ve also needed to consider whether or not teammates who don’t take advantage of those policies feel jealous or annoyed that I am.”
But he says that shouldn’t scare you away from making physical activity a priority. “All of those are just reasons to be more communicative about what you are doing and why it’s important to you,” he says.