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An exercise in office improvisation

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By Dave Bloustien

Thursday, 17 October 2013

WE all know that regular exercise is vital for better work-life balance, but how do you keep yourself fit at an office job?

While there are collective aerobics sessions and company gyms for some people, not everyone has access to the latest in exercise equipment. Here are a few helpful hints:

1. Pedal Desk

Have you ever been sitting at your desk, wishing you could feel like you were going somewhere without actually leaving? Introduce yourself to the Pedal Desk, or you can even make one yourself. Buy yourself a cheap racing bike and saw out the middle of the frame (where the pedals are). Simple solder that part of bike on to a metal stand and pedal while you type. And, as you’re not actually going anywhere, it’s significantly safer than texting while you drive.

2. Coffee

Nothing gets you fit like a regular walk, and there’s no walk more regular than the path from your desk to the bathroom. Drinking four or five coffees every morning will keep your bladder full and set your internal clock to an hourly schedule. Sure, not everyone likes coffee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t simply use water! If walking to the bathroom is the most exercise you get at work, this will help you up your routine.

3. Yoga

Everybody hates meetings: they’re dull, repetitive and can really strain working relationships. On the other hand, everybody loves the dull repetition of straining themselves at yoga, so why not combine the two? Substitute your boardroom table for a circle of yoga mats, and you’ll find your working environment becomes far more flexible.

4. Chair Skates

A good office chair has five solid wheels, that’s one more than a conventional roller skate. By strapping one to each foot, you can dash about the office with style and pizzazz while working out those thighs, calves and glutes. Of course the possibility of injuring yourself increases insurmountably, so it might be best to run it by your OHS representative first. If you’re self-employed, however, then go for your life!

5. Nose Typing

Do your forearms ache from repetitive strain injury? Your hands are just two of the many appendages you have at your disposal for typing. Strap a stylus to your nose or the middle of your face with sticky-tape and tack, so you can type out a memo while giving your RSI time to recover. As an added bonus, you’ll be strengthening the trapezius muscles in your neck and shoulders, and improving flexibility in your spine. You might think this is a bit of a nonsense suggestion, but remember that the nose-stylus has been around since 2011. Originally invented to help you use your smartphone in the bath, why not use it for some face exercise?

6. Facial Contortions

Overacting with surprise to literally everything you hear will not only amuse your colleagues, but it will give your face muscles and eyebrows a much-needed workout:
“Jess, could you please print me out the report on John Smith”
“Whaaaaaat?!”
After a few months of that, you’ll have a rippling forehead and a jaw like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

7. Paperweight Lifting

Anyone who has had to refill an industrial photocopier will tell you that it’s exhausting. You have to find a new ream of paper, carry it to the photocopier and restart. So why not spend 10 minutes of every day doing just that? And by emptying, then refilling the paper tray, you’ll double your exercise reps without disrupting the work flow of your office.
(To mix it up: try using the A3 tray. Or different coloured paper.)

TELL US: What’s the most unusual bit of workplace exercise you’ve ever seen? Do you have your own unusual methods? Share them with us!

There are literally tens of exercises you can do to improve your fitness around the office. Let your imagination go wild! Sure, you might look a bit silly, raise some eyebrows around the office, or even have a co-worker ask if “everything is alright at home” – but just remember, someone actually invented the nose-stylus.


Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Creative Commons License
We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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