5 ways to stay active during your workday when it’s too dark and cold for walking meetings

Nov 3, 2014 /

Nilofer Merchant (TED Talk: Got a meeting? Take a walk) urges you to trade sit-down one-on-one meetings for walking meetings. But as the northern hemisphere enters the darker months, sedentary workers face a challenge: what to do when it’s cold out? Below, five ways to stay active during a winter workday.

1. Stand up.

Simply standing instead of sitting for at least part of the day will do you a lot of good. For a month, Dan Kois committed to spending every day exclusively on his feet, except when he drove to work, went to the bathroom, tied his shoes or slept. He wrote about the experience earlier this year for New York Magazine, noting “if you sit down more than 11 hours a day, one study suggests, you’re 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years.” Kois stood at meals, all day as he worked, and in meetings with his colleagues, though they all remained seated. Which was a little awkward. But still. By the end, he concluded that standing constantly was excessive — a pain in his calves and for his family life — but committed to henceforth “work on my feet a lot, the memory of my all-day agonies reminding me that finding ten minutes an hour to be vertical is not that arduous.”

2. Work on a treadmill.

Susan Orlean describes her love affair with her new treadmill desk in The New Yorker. For the piece, she talks on the phone with the leading scholar of “inactivity studies,” who walked on his own treadmill desk simultaneously; the two “talked for about a mile.” Orlean points out that “sitting puts muscles into a sort of hibernation, cutting off their electrical activity and shutting down the production of lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fat molecules in the blood. Your metabolic rate drops to about one calorie a minute — just slightly higher than if you were dead.” The upshot is an uptick in your chances of getting heart disease, certain cancers, depression, and type-2 diabetes. (Like Merchant said: health risks.) Phone meetings while strolling on a treadmill are a great alternative to walking outdoors. And of course, you can walk while doing solitary work too.

3. Take your client to a gym class.

According to this Bloomberg article, high-end fitness classes are now a thing on Wall Street, where bankers have started taking clients cycling and bootcamp-ing instead of out for dinner and drinks. Apparently, many are more than happy to trade swilling for a workout.

4. Stand on a wobble board.

This idea comes courtesy of Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova, who stands on a wobble board, barefoot, while she works. “It might sound crazy, but it actually helps you balance your posture much more evenly than just standing on your feet, in which case you inevitably shift your weight to one leg or the other, subtly twisting your spine,” she writes for Lifehacker. “With the wobble board, so long as you have a single touchpoint — like a finger on the keyboard — it becomes incredibly easy to balance, and you’re forced by gravity into perfect alignment.”

5. Make tiny adjustments.

You’ve probably thought about walking or biking to work, or using the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator. For a few more ideas, check out this surprisingly useful document (pdf) put out by the Department of Justice and Attorney General in Queensland, Australia, full of ways to add a little more activity to a sedentary workday. For instance: Alternate typing with tasks like filing, which allow you to change your posture and muscle movement. Use a headset for phone calls so you can walk around. Stand during presentations. Eat lunch (“and morning and afternoon tea” — gosh, Queensland sounds good) away from the desk so you get up and go. And put your printer far away from your desk, so you have to walk to get there.

Featured illustration via iStock.