Walk and Stand More While Working in the Office

  Reading time 15 minutes

If you’re a desk jockey, like so many office workers, you may be at risk for obesity, which may set you up for an entire slew of diseases like heart disease, stroke or cancer. Health experts contend that office workers don’t have to surrender to a sedentary lifestyle and by simply standing more often and even walking around the office, you can burn 50 more calories than just sitting. Even small movements like fidgeting and moving your legs boosts your calorie burn above resting levels by 20 percent to 40 percent.

How can you integrate more standing and walking into your day––especially when you work long hours? It is possible provided you’re focused in giving standing and walking a place in your daily work routine.


  1. Identify opportunities throughout your day to walk. Even a long stroll through the office gardens will help you shed a few calories and clear your mind, as can standing when on the phone and choosing to deliberately break every hour to walk around the office and back to your desk. Pinpoint specific times throughout your workday to ensure you get some movement going:
    • Break time. Even if you don’t have a designated break time, you know when the brain batteries start to shut down. Instead of just grabbing another cup of coffee, consider taking a five to 10 minute stroll around the office.
    • Lunchtime. Whether your lunch break is 30 minutes or a full hour, take advantage of this time to move and stretch. If possible, grab a friend and go for a walk instead of hitting the pizza bar.
    • Before or after work. You can always find a few minutes before or after work to walk or stretch, even if it’s only 10 minutes. If your child plays sports that you must attend after work, bring your exercise clothes and shoes to the field and do some walking while he or she practices.
  2. Take phone calls while standing at your desk. According to personal trainer Rich Gaspari, standing at work will ultimately help you burn more calories. “Standing obviously puts more stress on the body than sitting, thus it will burn more calories. If you stand for an entire workday, it can help increase leg strength and endurance.” Moreover, by standing when you take a call rather than constantly sitting, you can develop a routine that allows you to break your concentration from the task you’re doing and give your full attention to the caller instead.
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    • Purchase a cordless, hands-free phone so you can stand in any area of your office, especially if it’s best to get away from disturbing colleagues. Don’t get tangled in that land line cord and instead purchase (or ask your office to purchase) a cordless phone and/or hands free device so you can freely stand and even do a little pacing.
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    • Sit back down if you need to take notes or write. Going from standing to sitting and then standing again will help keep you active and burn additional calories. Changes of your position from sitting all the time will also help you to concentrate more actively on the task at hand, rather than falling zombie-like into all of the tasks before you as you continue staying seated.
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    • Pace while talking on the phone. Boost the calorie burn by not only standing while chatting, but also pacing during your conversation. If no one is looking, you could even do a few squats or lunges while returning voicemail or making calls. In some workplaces, nobody will even mind if they do see you exercise; they might even applaud you for it!
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  3. Set an alarm as a reminder to get up and move. It’s easy to get caught up with work, so you may need to set the timer or alarm as a stand up or walk reminder. Of course if you are in a big meeting or attending to an emergency you’ll have to reset your time and reschedule for a later date.
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    • Use your watch. If you’re typically in several rooms or offices throughout the day, you may want to rely on your watch to remind you to get up and move.
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    • Set the computer alarm clock. Those who are chained to their computer will find that using the computer alarm clock is very effective. Set it to chime every few hours as a reminder to get up, stand and stretch. Some computer programs even have an office gym program installed, so you may want to use that and include some standing and walking exercises as part of your stretching routine.
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    • Use a kitchen timer. If you don’t have access to a computer timer or a watch, an old fashioned kitchen timer may do the trick. However kitchen timers are limited in the sense that after it dings you’ll have to reset it again.
    • Use an MP3 player, portable game player, or other digital device to remind you to “move it.” You’ll move fast to turn the sound off before colleagues hear too much of it!
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  4. Clean your office before you leave each day. A great way to enforce movement, while accomplishing a work-related task, is to straighten and organize your office before you leave every night. The IBM Corporation instituted the “clean desk” policy for all workers before they left at night to ensure that security sensitive information didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Consider your office area to be “top secret” and make sure all paperwork is organized and secured and all trash or other items are properly disposed.
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    • Stand in front of your desk as you straighten the piles of paper. Sift through piles of paperwork while standing. Not only will you burn more calories, it may give you more of a wider range of sight over a messy desk.
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    • Pick up any loose paper or debris off the floor. Keep your work area tidy by throwing away any crumpled papers, paper coffee cups or to-go boxes before you leave.
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    • Clean the surface and your computer. Grab a bottle of cleaning fluid and give your desk and computer a quick wipe.
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    • Don’t leave the office until your office space is cleaned and everything is organized. Commit to only leaving when your area is cleared. If you continue to clean and organize your office every night the job will become easier and you will end up working more efficiently in the long run.
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  5. Find a buddy to join you in your quest. There’s nothing like having a friend to join you in your desire to move more. Team up with a friend who will find fun in your venture and commit to support each other. This can be particularly helpful when other colleagues question your liability to stand up and walk around at any moment; with two of you doing it, it might just turn contagious.
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    • Plan a time to walk around the office. If you can schedule lunch or break time together, use that time to walk. Not only will you burn some calories, it will give you an opportunity to bond on a personal or professional level.
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    • Purchase pedometers and have a friendly competition to see who can walk or move more during the day. Friendly competition can always be a blast. Purchase a pedometer and set it the minute you both enter the office. At the end of the day, meet to see who walked the most throughout the day.
    • Eat lunch together while standing at a high top table. Although mom always said to sit down and eat your lunch, consider standing at a high top for lunch instead; you don’t need to move around but at least the standing position will help your body to elongate during the lunch hour.
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  6. Have fun moving and being active during the day. Your desire to move and stand more doesn’t have to be robotic. Sometimes we just find ourselves in a bad habit of sitting, sitting, sitting until there seems like there isn’t any other option. But there sure is! Find some fun and make it a game.
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    • Do a “happy dance” when you land a big deal, experience success or just finish a task. Imagine how many calories you’ll burn doing that “happy dance” when you land that big deal, complete those hideous time sheets, or achieve a work goal? If your “happy dance” is particularly embarrassing, you may want to do this dance behind closed doors unless you work with a crew that “gets it.” But don’t let that stop you doing it!
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    • If your boss permits it, purchase an exercise balance ball that allows you to still reach your desk and be able to work while at that the same time, engaging your core. Share it around during the day so that others get a break from the usual sitting; you get to exercise rolling it into other colleague’s cubicles (and an excuse for a quick chat)!
    • Do five jumping jacks once or twice (when no one is looking if need be) during the day. Who says you can’t jump up and do a few quick movements to burn calories? Drop and do 10 push ups or knock out a few jumping jacks––whatever will get your blood pumping and take you out of your sedentary stance. If workplace decorum rules this out, find an empty meeting room or do it in the tearoom outside peak use.
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    • Stretch at your desk. Even a quick stretch can help. Consider standing up and then reaching for the sky. Bend to each side and then try to touch your toes. Or even stretching while sitting will help wake up your body and brain.
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  7. Keep working on standing and working more during your work day, wherever you are. It may take a few weeks to turn this into a habit but you should notice wonderful changes, such as reduced tension in your neck and shoulders, less stressed calf muscles and perhaps a little less weight around the tummy. Over time, this extra movement all adds up to a healthier, more cognitively well-adjusted you, just in the same way as it has for humans who have experienced movement all day long throughout history.
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    • John Medina, a molecular biologist with a particular interest in the impact of all things on our brain, has noted that movement improves cognitive ability. So much so, that he believes workplaces would be much improved if we shifted treadmills into the cubicles, or at least in the office with breaks taken each half day to use them. He practices what he preaches and uses a treadmill with a laptop; if your workplace is open to such ideas (and one such workplace is Boeing), then suggest changes that improve your well-being and work performance and increase workplace productivity too.[1]


  • At least try standing and moving around more often at work before seeing it as impossible. Try it for a week and see how much better you feel.
  • If you work from home (or in a progressive office) ask about placing a treadmill in front of your desk. Set the walk speed to the lowest setting and stroll while you work.


  • Make sure your employer is on board with any type of new routine you’d like to institute. For example, if you’re given a specific break period, use that time to walk or stand. Or ask if you can stand while taking calls or doing work (if necessary).

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

  • Timer or alarm
  • Exercise/gym ball for sitting on at least some of the day
  • Cordless phone
  • Walking shoes for breaks
  • Treadmill (optional but a great idea)

[Edit]Related wikiHows


  1. John Medina, Brain Rules, pp.25-27, (2008), ISBN 978-0-9797777-5-5

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