Blurring the Lines Between Office Work and Fitness

June 10, 2017   

The test subject

As a child up until I was about 20 years old, I always had manual and/or active jobs. This ranged from working on the farm (I grew up on one) to landscaping* to construction to bartending to gardening to working in shops. And what was the one thing each role had in common? Movement! At the end of a day’s work, I would be tired - both mentally and physically, body and mind both ready to unwind.

Fast forward to when I started my office work life and much of my “work time” was (and still is) spent in front of a computer. I still came home tired, both mentally and physically, but my brain had a reason to be and my body did not. I realised (1) my body was tired because of inactivity and a lack of movement and (2) the more I moved the more I could do with my brain. To enable optimal conditions, since I have been about 22, I have always tried to workout or play sport in the morning before work and on lunch to provide an energy boost for the afternoon.

Recently, I was reflecting on my pre-office life. I came to the realisation that during this time, work, play, sport and movement were all meshed together into the same thing. And now, in the present day, the difference is I have clear lines drawn between work and sport / movement / exercise.

I’ll admit I have thought about leaving my behind the screen life and going into a full time physical job. Becoming a personal trainer, firefighter and farmer** have all crossed my mind. However, I know I would miss it - I love coding, data, solving mental problems and pushing the boundaries with technology. So instead of leaving, I want to work to combine them - I need to blur the lines.

Blurring the lines

One of my new goals in life is to blur these lines between the office and movement/exercise until they are no longer visible, both for myself and for others, so much so that movement throughout the day becomes habitual again. My “ideal” is to have work and movement as one, regardless of your career. Everyday would involve getting a mental and physical workout - making gym memberships unnecessary and eliminating obesity and health related problems from the workforce.

This is a pretty audacious goal, and I’m a believer in building something useful step by step, so here is the path I see to gradually merge the two:

1. Implement small, invisible wins in stricter (or more “conformative”) offices:

  • Start having more standing and walking meetings than sit-down ones. Something as simple as suggesting “hey, do you want to walk and talk about this?” to your colleague should work.
  • Get up and walk / move / stand at least once an hour.
  • Do something physical on lunch (a workout class, go to the gym or simply take a long walk outside) a couple of times per week.

2. Next step for more progressive offices - everything above plus:

  • Plank or Squat hold during daily meetings (e.g. scrums): everyone hold a plank or the bottom of a squat while people give their updates - guaranteed to keep meetings shorter!
  • Use a standing desk: buy one or make one with a side table like I did here:
    Make shift standing desk
  • Implement habitual mini-workouts with bodyweight exercises. For example, I do 5 pushups every time I go into the bathroom.
  • Have a lacrosse (or hockey) ball close to hand to mobilise when you need to.
  • Encourage movement in and out of the office: e.g. table tennis and foosball in the building, employee clubs for lunch runs / cycles, company sponsored fitness events.

3. Create an exercise friendly office - everything above plus:

  • Add an open space to the office where employees can stretch, do some light exercise and lie down.
  • Add fitness equipment throughout the building:
    • Pullup bars above standing desks
    • Punch-bags and mitts
    • Exercise bands and balls dotted around
    • Exercise bikes with laptop holders
    • Monkey bars in the lunch area
  • Have exercise messages in different parts of the office. For example:
    • A poster saying 5 jumping jacks for every entry into the kitchen.
    • Or a sign suggesting one full overhead stretch for each time you visit the coffee machine.

The above goes for anyone working at a screen for the majority of their day - be it in an office, remotely or at home. If remote, you can still employ a lot of the suggestions above. For example, when working from home, I:

  • Create a quick DIY standing desk by placing a chair on top of my kitchen table (perfect for my height - I’m typing this post at it right now!)
  • Have a pullup bar on the kitchen door frame, and a yoga mat in the corner of the living room along with some exercise bands to break into exercise at various points throughout the day.
  • Take some meetings using my phone so I can walk and talk.

Things to keep an eye on

  • Focus on exercises that the majority of people can do, regardless of fitness level, so that (1) it doesn’t alienate people and (2) doesn’t encourage too much of an “elitist” culture.
  • Offer classes to teach people proper form, movement mechanics and progressions for exercises.
  • Insurance needs to be figured out in offices as I know this is a barrier at the moment.


Below are some examples of people doing cool stuff in this space already. I’ll update this post as I find more:


The above is just my own thoughts and opinions and I take no responsibility for any issues/injuries arising from these ideas. Remember to consult a health professional before implementing any changes in your routine.

*I still remember getting my first “muscles” when landscaping at 13 :-)

**My dad does always say “Farming mightn’t pay well, but it’ll save on therapy later on!”