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How to work exercise into your work Add to ...

The exercise ball

Swapping out your $500 executive task chair for a $20 inflated sphere seems absurd, right? But if you can get past the aesthetics, the exercise ball can do wonders for your back and shoulders, core stability and posture - just by sitting on it. Some physiotherapists recommend them to those who have suffered injuries to their knees, hips or backs because of how they force the body to work. While it might take some getting used to, you'll find that the ball requires you to use your stabilizer muscles to keep from rolling around. You'll kick your slouching habit quickly when your first slip-up leaves your sorry butt on the floor. Your co-workers will eventually stop making quips about you sitting on the ball; they will never stop mocking you for falling off it.

The treadputer

A growing body of research suggests those of us who are slaves to our computers, spending several hours sitting each day, could be raising our risk for osteoporosis, obesity and heart disease. So why sit when you can stand? Why stand when you can walk? Enter the treadputer, a bizarre hybrid of a computer workstation and a treadmill. You'll risk looking a little Type A, sure, but you'll have the satisfaction of burning calories, building bone density and improving circulation while your sedentary co-workers remain, well, sedentary. Some companies sell high-priced treadputers for several thousand dollars, but if you can't afford it and if your employer isn't willing to pony up, a little DIY can turn a cheap treadmill and hospital tray into a functional "walkstation."

The under-the-desk exerciser

Yes, cardio during conference calls is possible. While the treadputer is better suited for small or home offices, under-the-desk step machines and pedal exercisers will help you get your heart pumping and tone your lower body, even if you're stuck in a cubicle maze. If you can't go for a walk outside the building, just slip one of these compact devices under your desk and start stepping or pedalling away. Your co-workers may hear a slight mechanical whirring, but most will be none the wiser. For those who aren't disciplined to keep going, some devices, such as Gamercize GZ PC-Sport Power Stepper, can be hooked up via USB to your computer and will hijack your mouse and keyboard if you slack off.

The extra walk

Not brave enough to put an exercise machine at your desk? Fair enough. But you can still shake yourself out of your sedentary ways throughout the day by taking up walking. Send that PDF to the printer at the other end of the floor instead of the one in your department. Instead of keeping a 1.5-litre water bottle at your desk, use a mug or glass to prompt frequent trips to the water cooler (and then, in turn, to the washroom). Sure, it's unlikely to raise your heart rate significantly, but it'll break up the extended periods of sitting at your desk.

The stairs route

If you add together climbing up the stairs in the morning, going up and down during lunch and coffee breaks and then down at the end of the day, you could rack up several minutes of serious physical activity over the course of a week. Researchers have conducted studies to measure the impact of stair climbing on health, and suggest that climbing several flights a day can improve bone density in post-menopausal women, improve levels of good cholesterol in blood and raise your aerobic capacity. Added non-physical benefit: It will make you feel unbelievably superior to your elevator-using colleagues.

The bathroom stretch

The fluorescent lights, the sound of clacking keyboards and the general office ambience doesn't make for the most Zen environment. If your back is sore from hunching over your desktop, escape to the bathroom for a midday sun salutation (we recommend the most low-traffic one in your building to avoid distracting your colleagues and give you the best concentration). If you're not into downward-dogging in the same space you relieve yourself, you can also try basic Tai Chi to both improve your flexibility and help you relax.

*And don't do this: Try to do any exercise in the office without dressing properly for it - stilettos are not treadputer-appropriate

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