How to stay active when working from home
In my experience of working from home I have honestly found it difficult to maintain my level of exercise. With no need to leave the house, I often find myself stuck indoors for days on end. Over the winter months, it has been particularly hard to motivate myself to go outside for walks, especially when it is dark in the morning and afternoons.
It has become clear to me that I need to prioritise my health more. Building a daily routine that also promotes my well being is, I have realised, essential for a freelancer or someone who works from home.
Having previously explored the idea of starting your day off with a positive morning routine, I thought it was time to focus solely on how to fit more exercise into your day.
The reality of an inactive work / life balance
Working from home is probably the most enviable of office environments. It can usually allow a certain degree of flexibility into your schedule and the possibility of spending more time with family. Plus, you get to skip the commute!
However, losing a workplace outside of the home can have a detrimental effect on our health.
One of the biggest problems from working at home is inactivity. Our main reaction to a busy workload is to sit for as long as possible until the task is done. Before you know it, hours have gone by and you have not moved from your chair.
Excessive sitting can affect your metabolism, increase blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and lead to weight gained around the waist – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Remaining in one posture for hours at a time can also affect the muscles in your back, neck, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves.
Staying active when you work from home
Staying active when working from home may seem easy. Surely being at home affords you more time to spend on exercise?
Whilst this may be true in theory, we may quickly fall into routines that do not prioritise healthy activity and lose the boundaries between work and personal life. So not only is there a risk to our physical health, working from home can also affect our mental health too as we allow the stresses from work into our home.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we can pick up the pace in our day.
Schedule a workout into your diary
Whilst you can make promises to yourself that you will exercise every day, the chances are you will find excuses to miss it out. Just as you schedule your diary to organise your workload and meetings, you should find time to exercise.
Treat exercise with the same priority as a phone call with a client. Blocking out time away from your desk means that you are more likely to do it.
Play around with different times in the day to find what suits you. Some people will be able to fit in exercise in the mornings by walking the kids to school and following up with a jog, others may benefit with a lunchtime session away from their desk. Forcing yourself to follow a routine that does not feel right sets yourself up for failure as you won’t stick to it.
Set your desk up for success
Organising your workspace can help you keep more active. Some researchers have highlighted the benefits of a standing or treadmill desk. Whilst the reality of these desks may not be achievable for all, everyone can make sure their desk is arranged in an ergonomic way.
Make sure your back, knees are hips are supported by your chair by adjusting the height so that your hips and knees are at a 90 degree angle. If your chair has arm rests, make sure they support your elbows and forearms in their natural bent position.
Ensure the height of your computer is level with your eyes so as not to place strain on your neck and shoulders from looking down. Your desk should be well lit, too, so your eyes don’t get tired.
Making some simple tweaks to your workspace can have huge benefits to your physical health and help you to feel more comfortable during your day.
Get out of your chair
Remaining stationary is a surefire way to feel sluggish. You should take regular breaks during your day to get out of your chair and move around.
Whether that’s to make a cup of tea or simply walk up and down the stairs a couple of times, leaving your desk at least once an hour for a minute or so will help you stretch, relax and refresh for the next batch of concentration.
Move more at your desk
Were you ever told off as a child for fidgeting in your seat? Well, all that energy serves a good purpose as moving more whilst you are at your desk helps untense your muscles. At times when you are at peak concentration, you may not realise that you are contracting your body in a rigid position for hours at a time.
If you’ve ever read the exercises printed in the in-flight magazine on an airplane, you’ll know the kinds of things you can do in a confined space. Loosen up a little in your seat by rotating your wrists and ankles, stretching your arms above your head or turning your head from left to right, up and down.
A moment of pause, even when you are in the middle of something, will help centre yourself and stretch tense muscles.
Schedule active meetings
Getting out the house on a regular basis is important if you work at home. A great way to incorporate exercise into your work is by arranging an active meeting. Instead of sitting down with a coffee (and the inevitable cake!), why not go for a walk instead?
Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that walking boosts creative inspiration, which is probably why you always feel full of ideas during a walk with the dog.
Next time you need to meet with a client to brainstorm, why not do it outdoors and get some exercise in the process?
Incorporate exercise that can be done indoors
Aside from getting out of your chair to walk and stretch, there are many forms of exercise you can do without leaving the house. Ideally you should be aiming for 30 minutes of cardio three times a week.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Yoga / Pilates – my absolute favourite for yoga is Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube. She’s an absolutely gorgeous person inside and out and leads the best yoga classes to follow online.
- Jogging on the spot
- Jumping jack / burpees
- Push ups
- Skipping rope (probably best in the garden!)
- Dumbbell lifts (using a heavy object)
- Downward facing dog
If the thought of incorporating exercise into your week seems a little daunting, these kinds of exercises can be done in the privacy of your own home where there is no pressure.
There are plenty of YouTube tutorials or articles online that offer guidance, and it could be a good idea to follow along so that you remain motivated.
Set realistic exercise goals
Failure at the first exercise hurdle is usually because we pile the pressure on ourselves. Getting out of bed at 5.30am to jog may be some people’s idea of pleasure, but for others, it will involve a lot of pain.
Setting unrealistic goals will establish working out as a chore to be endured. Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that it’s ok not to get out of bed at 5.30am if you don’t want to. There are plenty of other ways you can plan to keep active whilst working from home and you can experiment with several methods until you find the balance that works for you.
If a day has passed and you’ve not left your desk, let alone the house, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that tomorrow is another day and revert back to your calendar to adjust whatever is in your schedule that prevented you from exercising.
If the reason is not necessarily a time one, then take a look at the activity you had planned and ask yourself whether you really wanted to do it. If the answer is no, then try something new until you find one that you enjoy doing!
A healthy lifestyle is not only about exercise
One of the perks of working from home is that you do not fall foul of the office biscuit tin.
Avoiding unhealthy snacks at home starts in the supermarket. You have more control over your lunch and snacks because you can choose not to buy them in the first place.
For some inspiration to get you started, take a look the best foods you can eat during the day to help you stay productive.
Drinking plenty of water is also a must. Staying hydrated is essential for just about every function in the body. Staying on track can be difficult, so using a water bottle at your desk with a hydration tracker is a visual way to keep on top of your water intake.
Have a look at some of these designs for more information:
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How do you stay active working from home?
I hope I’ve inspired you to incorporate more exercise into your day. I’ve found this downside of my freelancing lifestyle to be a surprising one and not one that I expected. Still, just as we must strive to promote a happy and healthy work life balance for ourselves, fitting in more exercise is another piece of the puzzle.
How do you keep up your activity levels when you work from home? Do you struggle to stick to a routine or find it easy to make time to get your heart pumping?
Share your experience of being a stay at home worker. I’d love to know how you’ve managed to strike a balance you’re happy with.
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