How to Build More Movement into Your Workday (So You Get Healthier While You Work)

How to Build More Movement into Your Workday (So You Get Healthier While You Work)

If there’s one topic that’s more beloved by bloggers and podcasters than any other, it’s arguably how to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of yourself. Yet the trouble with this Henry Ford assembly line way of being is that while a hard work ethic is valuable to some degree, it can become detrimental to your physical, psychological, and emotional health if you take it to extremes.

One of the most common ways that we see this manifest itself in the Western workplace is in the fact that most people don’t get nearly enough movement. That’s why fitness tracker and phone app makers have made some measurements the equivalent of vitamin and mineral RDAs – because if you’re not taking your 10,000 steps each day, you are movement deficient and susceptible to all manner of health problems.

So given that we’re all expected to do more than ever before from an output standpoint, how can we possibly hope to fit in more movement too? Well, it turns out that you only need to make a few small tweaks to see a big payoff in your health and wellness. Here are a few possible starting points:

1) Summon Your Inner Steve Jobs

At a certain point in his illustrious Silicon Valley career, Apple CEO Steve Jobs realized that sitting in offices and conference rooms was stifling his creativity and that of his team. So he instituted a new policy: if you wanted to meet with him, you’d have to do it while walking. Jobs may have passed away, but the legacy of his creativity-stoking walk-talk meetings remains in the infinite loop of the spaceship-like Apple HQ, which is built with mobile meetings in mind.

You might not be plotting anything as revolutionary as the iPod, iPhone, or iPad, but you can still channel your inner Steve Jobs. If you have a meeting that doesn’t require you to take copious notes, take the call while on the go. And if you do need a record of who said what, try using a recording app. Some transcription services like will let you tape a call and then have it written up. This way, you get in an extra walk and save your fingers from having to scribble like a maniac to keep up with the fast-talking colleague on the other end of the line.

2) Embrace Mini-Workouts

In our culture, we’ve come to believe that a training session consists of a single workout bookended by long periods of inactivity. But when researching his bestselling book The Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner discovered that the healthiest people on Earth get and stay that way because they’re constantly moving throughout the day. So you can supplement your daily training session by squeezing in a few extra movement breaks.

This could be as simple as setting a timer on your laptop to go off every 30 minutes. When it does so, you drop to the floor and bang out 10 pushups or do a set of lunges or squats (you might want to check that the Zoom call has actually ended first). If you’re working from your home office, you could run up and down the stairs a few times or go to check if there’s anything better than the usual junk in your mailbox. Or attach a pullup bar to your office door and do the necessary every time you cross the threshold. These few reps might not seem like much in the moment, but over the course of a year they will add up to a fitter you.


3) Sort Out Your Standing Surface

OK, we’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that you’ve already joined the standing/adjustable desk revolution. If not, Google “standing desk health benefits” and you probably will. But while getting off your derriere is a significant first step, it’s just the start of the change. Standing in place for too long comes with its own set of pitfalls, including potential circulatory issues, vein problems, and foot, ankle, and knee stiffness.

To head off such issues at the pass, all you need is a little micromovement. Publishing their research in the American Journal of Physiology, a team of exercise physiologists from the University of Missouri at Columbia noted that fidgeting throughout the day helps improve cardiovascular health. That’s one of the reasons we designed the Topo mat with varied surfaces. As you move your feet between and over the varying slopes and gradients, you’re subconsciously getting in some much needed micromovement to keep your heart pumping blood to your feet and legs, as well as providing your brain with another stimulating input.

4) Make it Harder, Not Easier

Taking a cue from e-commerce – think Amazon’s single-click Buy Now feature – one of the central tenets of hack culture is to make things as friction-free as possible. For example, if you put a giant coffee mug on your desk and a water vessel the size of a medieval mead flagon next to it, you won’t need to leave to refill as often, so you’ll be more productive. But if you take the opposite approach and stick with something like a 12-ounce Yeti mug for your morning Joe and a 16-ounce water bottle for your H2O, then you’ll have to get up and take a break every couple of hours to refill both. This way, you will sneak in a bit more movement and also give your brain the break it needs to stay focused and in flow (more on this topic coming soon).

Work office still closed? Then walking away from your home office workstation periodically will also give you an opportunity to check in and see how your significant other and kids are doing. If you can spare the time, you could share a pot of tea with the former and get down on the floor to play a game with the latter. In doing so, you’ll not only be building in a welcome brain and movement break but can also bolster your relationship with your family at the same time.