Employees can work out while on the job

Employees don't have to feel constricted by their chairs.

Armed with a fresh slate of New Year's resolutions, scores of U.S. workers are attempting to mesh health improvement goals with workplace and career demands.

If you work for a company that encourages employee health and fitness through on-premises workout facilities or paid memberships to a nearby gym, count yourself lucky, and don't pass up the opportunity to work off a few calories on the boss's dime. But even staffers without company-backed fitness opportunities can slip a little exercise into their day while on the clock.

Pennsylvania personal trainer Sharyn Pak has released a new DVD, Desk Sets, designed to help people work out with only a chair, a desk and a filing cabinet as props.

In the video, Pak demonstrates exercises in a variety of work outfits. She does hand stretches and rocks on her feet, wearing slacks, a long-sleeved shirt, pearls and high-heeled loafers.

In another session, she's in a blazer and skirt, kicking off her backless heels for lunges and holding a desk edge for support.

Pak said the idea of "at-work workouts" came from clients whose long work hours were harming their health.

"I hear a lot of complaints of neck and shoulder stiffness, people feeling like they're starting to root in their chairs."

Fabio Comana, a researcher at the American Council on Exercise, said easy changes in the office routine can accomplish the same goals without compromising productivity. Change positions every 15 minutes, he says. Walk for 15 minutes during the lunch break. Walk to talk to a colleague, rather than calling or e-mailing.

"We get so consumed in our jobs, that we forget to take a break every 30 minutes," Comana says.

Beyond the break room

Here's a few more ideas for workday stretching and toning from Office Yoga, by Darrin Zeer, and Working on the Ball, by Jane Clapp and Sarah Robichaud.

  • E-mail meditation: While you are reading your e-mail, remember to breathe slowly and focus your attention on your breath. Make the out breath two times longer than the in breath. This will calm you.

  • Close-the-deal warrior pose: Raise your arms to the side and take a big step forward with your knee bent. Keep your back leg planted.

  • Crowded-elevator stretch: Place a hand on a wall for balance. Standing on your left foot, cross right foot over left leg just above the ground. Feel the sole of your left foot rooted into the floor, lengthen your body. Relax and breathe, then switch legs.

  • Afternoon meltdown: Back sore? Legs tired? Mind racing? Find a quiet spot near a chair or wall. Lie on your back and put your legs up. Breathe deeply.

  • Photocopier stretch: Place your hands on the edge of the copier. Stand back with feet apart. Drop your head and chest. Breathe and relax your shoulders.
If sandwiching exercise movements between e-mails, phone calls and meetings isn't for you, consider a simple walk around your office, or put on your coat and step outside. Often a 10-minute escape from your desk, phone and co-workers can provide a physical and spiritual lift.
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