Forget ergonomic office furniture and breezy walks at lunch: workplace wellness is turning into total-body workouts in the cube. Exercising at work could save your health. But could it wreck your job — or worse, pit-stain your silk blouses and turn your white collars yellow?
Tally up the pros and cons to find out if the next wave of ‘office fitness’ suits you.
Pro: It could make you a more valuable employee. Exercise improves almost every dimension of cognition — including creativity and problem solving — for up to two hours after your workout (Newsweek).
Con: It could make you a less popular coworker. Creative breakthroughs may endear you to your boss, but your moist suits and B.O. are likely to make your coworkers uncomfortable. And if they see you breaking for a workout while they’re strapped to their desks under deadline, they might get resentful.
Pro: It might relax you. Exercise is a notorious stress-reliever (ACE counts 4 reasons why). Regularly exercising at work could make dealing with raunchy customers, troubleshooting tech problems and asking for a raise, well, no sweat.
Con: It might become a new stressor. Don’t we have enough on our to-do lists? Some office fitness programs, like Break Pal, set up a timer on employees’ computer screens. At regular intervals, the timer goes off and up pops a video with a 5-minute exercise. Having our screens overtaken by a Salsa video 10 times a day… sounds more like Break Boss. And two bosses = more stress.
Pro: You’ll probably get more work done. Starbucks runs could become a thing of the past: physical activity can give you a midday jolt of energy, as well as pull you out of a posture slump, which the folks at DivineCaroline say sucks up your energy by causing physical strain on the joints and muscles.
Con: You’ll probably burn fewer calories. Work out while typing or talking on the phone? Same deal as reading and exercising: multitasking means stunted fitness results. If you’re exercising at work, your mind is on work, and there’s also a good chance of being constantly interrupted by coworkers. Forget about an efficient workout (and start thinking about injuries waiting to happen).
Pro/Con (Depending on whether you enjoy making people uncomfortable): It could be really awkward. Yoga, tai chi, belly dancing and salsa dancing — these are a few of the activities included in corporate fitness packages. While exercise bands and Sissel Pro Stability Ball can be used inconspicuously, some other activities… not so much. Try having a conversation with your boss while he’s in Tree Pose. Or explaining the scene to a client who drops in on your Merengue.
Is It Worth Trading Briefcase for Gym Bag?
This exercising-at-work business is probably more than the creators of workplace wellness program originally had in mind. But with workdays getting longer and people taking over more responsibility, being able to incorporate physical activity throughout the day could save our bodies and our sanity.
Besides, who wants to work hard in a fitness program, only to throw it all away by sitting for 8+ hours?
As long as we use office fitness to become healthier, more productive workers, I think it makes sense. But we should save calorie counting and rigorous, sweaty workouts for the gym. And for those who aren’t comfortable breaking for tai chi, there are plenty of discreet ways to stay in shape at the office.
Would you exercise at work?