Working From Home? Four Easy Ways To Stay Active

When you work from home, you have to make an effort to stay fit. Even a car-based commute may include parking lot walks, flights of stairs and long hallways. Gyms and exercise studios are often convenient to use, located either at work or on the way.

Although a flexible schedule provides almost unlimited options, working from home can turn a formerly fit, vibrant person into a couch potato. It's not only the lack of movement between places; it's the lack of a meaningful work-life transition. Resisting the draw of gardening and housework for most of the day can turn into a resistance to anything except paid work.

The solution is to take deliberate action and set priorities. Make movement a daily must-do. Here are four ways to get moving without taking too much time out of your busy day.

1. Begin and end the day with stretching and strengthening.

Sitting in front of a computer can leave you stiff and sore. Begin and end your work day with 15 minutes of movement and stretching. Design your own daily warm-up and cool-down, or hire a personal trainer to help you develop a routine. Incorporate upper and lower body loosening exercises and stretches, and perhaps a routine for strengthening and balance: leg lifts, crunches, weight training, Pilates, yoga, tai chi or martial arts, for example. You may choose to do your morning warm-up standing and your evening cool-down--either before dinner or before bed -- on a mat.

2. Incorporate short bursts of exercise.

During the day, incorporate short bursts of higher-intensity exercise. For example, you might jump rope, take a brisk walk around the block, play a few active video games, or use an exercise machine or aerobic step for 10 minutes. With 15-minute sessions at the beginning and end of the day, just three 10-minute bursts of activity will give you an hour's exercise.

Does it matter that it won't all be done all at once? It probably does not. In fact, there's some evidence that quick bursts of exercise are best for your health. In a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, short after-dinner exercise sessions were better for reducing triglyceride levels (a risk factor for heart problems) than longer sessions. The same year, a study published in Preventive Medicine reported that sedentary adults had been better able to reach their fitness goals using shorter, rather than longer, bursts of exercise. Don't forget: scheduling time to get that housework or gardening done adds a little exercise, too.

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3. Build in a commute.

If you used to commute to work on foot, by bike or by public transport and miss that built-in exercise, perhaps you can find a way to replace it. For example, you might start your day by walking to a coffee shop or library, working on your laptop for an hour, then walking back. Alternatively, you might join a co-working space with a location that allows you to incorporate an active commute.

4. Join an exercise studio, gym or sports team.

When you work from home, loneliness can be as much of a problem as inactivity. Find a social way to be physically active. If you're sensitive to atmosphere and culture, you may have to try out a few gyms, studios or teams to find the right fit. Keep trying until you find something you love. Having a fun, laid-back group of people who share your active hobby can be a great motivator and turn a chore into a pleasure.

Of course, if you're already in the habit of running, biking or walking for exercise in the morning or evening, working from home should make it easier for you to stay active. However, you may find it easiest to get moving when you've got social interaction to look forward to, a real commute to make, or at least the convenience and privacy of exercising in your house. By combining short bursts of exercise every day with fun, social activities every week, even home workers who've found it difficult to make exercise a habit can stay healthy and active.

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