How to stay active (and lose weight) with a sedentary job

Time. It’s a non-renewable resource in the sense that what we get is what we get. When trying to build things into your daily life, it will always be limited (to a certain extent) by how much time you have available. Well, duh. I think we all can agree on the fact there are never enough hours in the day. Truthfully though, time doesn’t change. There are always 24 hours in a day, unless someone else has truly invented a time altering machine, in which case, we need to chat. I digress though.

So yes, there are always 24 hours in a day. We must then ask ourselves…are we really running out of time, or are we simply trying to cram too many things into our lives? I think we can probably all agree option 2 is where it’s at, right? When thinking about how exercise fits into your day, you may realize…uhhh…my calendar has no room. Based on premise that I’m alluding to here about trying to cram too many things into my life, we need to evaluate what we’re trying to put into the schedule and its importance. I’m going to write another post about focus and time management, buuuuutttt that’s another day.  For today, let’s think about exercise, shall we?

I recently had a client ask me a question about how to fit activity into a busy day, especially since she recently changed jobs and went from an active daily job to a sedentary one. That is a killer of all activity time, right? We were relying on that “extra time” during the day to be active, while we were working. Now, we’ve “lost that time” and can’t really get it back. So, what do we do? Well, first, excuse my potentially over-indulgence of the air quotes…they are just so fitting. Second, we need to understand that making the change from an active job to one where you are sedentary will definitely change the way you burn calories during the day.  The longer you are seated, the more your metabolism will slow down.  We’re not talking a drastic or irreversible slow down, but it does decrease your calorie burn during the day.  A great way to change that is by getting up as often as possible.  Do you have a counter or bar height table you could stand at to work part or all of the day? Even standing can help with muscle tone and burn a few extra calories during the day.  I actually have a standing work station myself and love it!  It is also another one that has been shown to improve focus, but again…topic for another day.  Speaking of focus, another side note – do be aware of the surface you’re standing on.  Standing on hardwoods all day without supportive shoes on can be hard on the back and knees over time, so be aware of that.  If you’re standing in heels, be wary. It puts the body at an unnatural angle and is definitely not ergonomically friendly. Maybe stand and sit in intervals, or get a cushioned mat to stand on (which is what I do).

Next, try to pace around any chance you get during phone calls where you don’t need to be in front of the computer.  You can also set an alarm or reminder to step away from your desk every hour.  Just pace around your house or office, walk outside for a minute, do a few push-ups, etc. Whatever is available to you really.  They are small little activities, but they really help to boost metabolism and keep you burning calories throughout the day.  They add up in a big way over time! I know activity trackers are all the rage right now, so most of you likely have one already.  Use that bad boy!  Set alarms or reminders on the tracker itself or in your phone to remind you to get up and move!

In addition to increasing your activity levels, you also want to do some type of exercise as many days a week as possible.  Long-term goal: cardio 5-7x/wk, strength training 2-3x/wk, and flexibility training at least 1x/wk, but ideally 2-3x/wk.  You can do some light stretching after each workout and/or dedicate a day to a longer stretching session or yoga or Pilates, something like that. You should be aiming for at least 30 minutes of some type of activity each day, but ideally more like 60 min when talking weight loss.  It doesn’t have to be all at once and can be broken up into pieces throughout the day; it can be broken up into as little at 5-10 minutes at a time.  For my moms out there (or dads who want to joint the fun…so maybe I should’ve said parents? Hmm…equality right?), a few of my favorite bloggers have some great stroller workouts you can look into.  Here are a few examples:  

Timing of exercise is up to you.  The most important thing is that you do it.  It doesn’t need to just be morning or just be afternoon.  It can be anytime.  Just be aware that late-night exercise can make it harder for you to sleep, which brings me to another point…sleep matters!

I know it can be really really difficult, but you want to try to get 7-8 hours of sleep as often as possible. For all my parents out there, I get it in the sense that I don’t really get it (not having kids and all) but hear a lot about how kids basically just don’t sleep, like ever. Ok, I’m bringing the drama on strong here, but seriously…try to get consistent sleep, if at all possible.

Water/hydration is also extremely important.  You should be drinking, bare minimum, 64 oz of water each day, but ideally closer to your body weight (in lbs) in oz.  This is really important to help the body function properly, hydrate your muscle tissues, keep your metabolism boosted, etc.

Ok, now for nutrition.  This is a huge component and will be where a big portion of weight loss will depend upon.  Barring any medical complications or medication issues, if you’re not losing weight…you’re more than likely eating too much (and potentially a combination of moving too little). I know, big oversimplification, but just keeping it real here people.

You want to aim to eat within 1-2 hours of waking up. I know there is a lot of debate about this with intermittent fasting, which we can delve into at a later date. Generally speaking though, most people still respond well to this. If you don’t, well then…you don’t need to follow it.  Just suggestions here.  🙂  After that, eating every 3-5 hours, depending on when you’re hungry and feel like you need something to eat.  Your typical schedule should include 3 meals and 0-2 snacks each day.  Aim to stop eating 1-2 hours before you go to bed and ideally have ~12 hours in between dinner and breakfast the next morning (this may affect what time you’re eating breakfast in the morning as well).  These can all be somewhat variable based on the schedule you need, but just to give you an idea. Speaking off, let’s chat quickly about meals and snacks. Let’s talk some high level basics…

An easy way to measure without having to “measure” is using what we call the 2 Hand Rule, which happens to be one of my favorite “rules.”  This essentially says to only eat what you can cover with 2 hands.  Put your 2 hands together, side-by-side, palms down.  The amount of food you eat at meals should fit underneath your hands.  Aim for 25% of your plate to come from lean protein, 25% to come from starch or grain (pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, peas, corn), and then 50% of your plate to come from fruit and non-starchy veggies.  This is a good framework for most meals during the day.

For snacks, you want to aim to have a protein/produce combination, like banana and almond butter, yogurt and fruit, veggies and hummus, string cheese and carrots, etc.

Now listen, this is an oversimplification, I get that. If I’m being totally honest though, I am terrible about reading blogs all the way through, word for word. I love, love, love my other bloggers and subscribe to see what they are up to, but I am constantly skimming. We are all constantly skimming. Very few of us actually sit down and study, study, study what we’re reading. So, I want to keep this brief (somewhat) and to the point. The other thing, we often overcomplicate basic issues. Yes, weight loss and activity is complicated, but it’s all about making little tweaks and figuring out what works for you. End of story. It’s an experiment…embrace the experiment that is your life!

But that being said, what other questions do you have?? What are your tips for staying active with a sedentary job and still aiming to maintain or lose weight?

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