The trend of working from home has increased significantly in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after the pandemic subsided, many companies have continued to offer remote-work options. As we shift from the traditional office-based work model to the hybrid work model, we often find ourselves glued to our desk and letting work consume us. Working remotely also means that we miss out on “incidental exercise” such as walking for commute, walking to meetings, and even to lunch and back.
According to the Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines (SPAG) , adults are recommended to engage in 150 to 300 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. I know of many office workers who struggle to find the time to exercise, with the weekend being the only time we can find to hit the gym or go for a run. By taking fitness breaks, it is one way we can make every moving minute count by breaking up long sedentary periods at work.
Taking fitness breaks is important for several reasons:
1. Better Physical Health
Taking fitness breaks can help reduce the risk of physical health problems such as back pain, neck pain, and eye strain that can come from prolonged sitting and computer use.
2. Increased Energy
Exercise and physical can increase energy levels, allowing you to be more productive and focused. The production of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin also contribute to this energy increase.
3. Reduced Stress
Taking a fitness break from work can help stimulate our brain and reduce stress levels. The production of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin leads to happier moods and those feelings of increased motivation, making it easier to get back to work after a break.
4. Encourages Team Building
Taking fitness breaks can be done in groups with your colleagues which can help build closer and more authentic relationships, which contributes to fostering a positive work environment.
Here are some tips on how to take fitness breaks at work:
1. Walk Around (as much as possible)
Whenever there is time for a short break, step outside for some fresh air or walk a lap around the office building. This can help clear your mind and give your brain a chance to rest from work.
2. Remember to Stretch
Do any type of stretch that you know and take a few minutes to stretch your neck, arms, legs, and back. This can help reduce muscle tension and relieve your joints and aches that you might get from prolonged sitting.
3. Practice Yoga
Incorporate some yoga poses into your break to improve flexibility and reduce stress. If you are working from home, you can keep a yoga mat on floor near your desk. You can try doing online yoga from home.
4. Lift Weights
Get yourself a pair of basic weights that you can use to do repeated arm movements during calls or while waiting for your files to upload. If you do not have weights at the office, you can also use alternatives like printer paper or filled water bottles.
5. The 4-second Workout
Set a timer once an hour and do as many repetitions as possible with the exercise of your choice (jumping jacks, push-ups, jogging in place, boxing, etc.) for 4 seconds to get your heartrate up! 4 seconds of intense exercise per hour is doable right? Studies found that 8 hours of short bouts of intense exercise every hour can reverse the negative effects of sedentary lifestyle and reduce the risk of chronic disease .
6. Exercise Dice
Make fitness breaks more fun by randomizing your workout regime! Allocate different exercises to a different number and encourage your family or colleague to join you!
To conclude, as we adapt to the hybrid work environment, it is important to take fitness breaks and reduce sedentary time. While everyone has different work environments, there are many ways we can modify exercise at work. Let’s start taking small steps and make every movement count!
 Wolfe, A. S., Burton, H. M., Vardarli, E., & Coyle, E. F. (2020). Hourly 4-s sprints prevent impairment of postprandial fat metabolism from inactivity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 52(10), 2262-2269.
About the author
Shang You is the Wellbeing Intern at Actxa Wellness and he is a final year student from NTU Sports Science & Management. An active learner who is highly interested in fitness and wellness related content, he hopes to be able to share his learnings to help others. The great outdoors is Shang You's passion as he participates competitively in various sports such as football, softball, and baseball5. If you are on the road, you may even find him going for therapeutic joy rides on his motorcycle!