Staying in shape through menopause is tough, and it’s even harder when you’re stuck working behind a desk or counter eight hours a day. But even small fitness breaks during work can make a big difference in your physical and mental health.
The fitness suggestions in this article take just five minutes or less. They’re beginner-friendly and easy to do in your work space. You won’t have to twist like a pretzel, heft a barbell, or even break a sweat.
Whether you’re sitting or standing at work, your body will get stiff from staying in one position too long. Quick stretch breaks are a great way to stay limber and head off potential health problems.
If you’re not used to stretching, start with gentle moves like side bends, seated cat/cow stretches, standing calf raises, or torso twists. One of the simplest stretches is to reach your arms straight overhead, clasp your hands together, stretch your arms and back out long, hold, and slowly release. You can do this either seated or standing.
Do a Mini Workout
There are dozens of workout moves you can do right at your workspace. Try slow shoulder shrugs, arm or wrist circles, and seated or standing leg extensions. To work your abs or glutes, gently tighten the muscles, hold, and slowly release (you can do this when you’re bored in a meeting, and nobody will ever know). Tone your legs by standing up and then sitting down again several times without using your hands. Be sure your legs stay straight and your knees don’t angle forward over your toes. If you have more space and privacy, work in a few gentle squats or wall push-ups.
Take a Walk
If your job requires you to stay in one place most of the time, look for ways to increase the number of steps you take throughout the day. Use your break time to take a lap around your workplace, or even better, climb up and down the stairs a few times.
When walking isn’t possible, you can still get some “steps” in by marching in place or pacing from side to side.
Change Your Position
If you’re sitting, try to stand up often throughout the day, and get on your feet for tasks like phone calls when you can. If you work standing up, look for opportunities to walk around, pace, or do simple, unobtrusive exercises like the ones suggested earlier in this article.
For people with desk jobs, an adjustable desk can offer the best of both worlds, letting you alternate between standing and sitting. Also consider sitting on a stability ball or even installing a treadmill under a standing desk.
Take a Technology-Assisted Fitness Break
Most of us stare at our phones too much anyway, so make that time work toward your fitness goals! Download a fitness app that includes quick workplace routines or check out the abundance of office workout videos online.
Another smart way to use technology is to program reminders on your device. At whatever interval you set, the timer will go off, nudging you to take a quick movement break. Don’t forget to silence the reminders before your annual evaluation with your boss.
Stop and Breathe
Surprised to find this suggestion in an article about workplace fitness? The simple act of pausing to breathe deeply has a host of mental and physical benefits.
To get the most out of your breathing break, inhale deeply through your nose, using the muscles in your diaphragm. Your belly should expand, not your chest. Then exhale through your mouth, still using your diaphragm. Make your exhale slightly longer than the inhale. Repeat several times if you can, but even one deep breath can go a long way toward helping your mind and body relax.
If you’re able, close your eyes while you take your deep breaths, or focus your gaze on a soothing object. (Not your phone, please!) Combine diaphragmatic breathing with mindfulness or meditation to make your mini-break even more refreshing.
Before you jump in, keep these precautions in mind.
- Never push past the point of mild discomfort. When your muscles start to burn, do one or two more reps or hold the position a tiny bit longer, then stop. Pushing until you’re ready to die might work for military recruits or endurance athletes, but most menopausal bodies need a gentler approach.
- If a movement hurts, stop.
- Check in with your healthcare provider. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have health conditions or concerns.
Exploring More Workplace Fitness Options
Fitness is hot, and you can find enough workplace workout options online to last several lifetimes. Unfortunately, many of them feature twenty-year-olds in designer activewear, performing moves at their desks that some of us haven’t done since high school gym class. Don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. Start with the basic moves in this article and do a little digging to find apps, articles, and videos designed for the shape, fitness level, and age you are. A few good places to start are Silver Sneakers, WebMD’s desk workout video, and the inclusive, user-friendly “Deskercise!” guide from the National Council for Health, Physical Activity, and Disability.
You don’t have to do ten burpees before your morning staff meeting to embrace workplace fitness. Any movement you can add to your day is a step toward better health.