13 Ways to Move More Throughout the Day (Even While at Work)

This is a guest post from expert biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Don’t Just Sit There! Tomorrow, Sept. 2, is the final day to receive the $10-off early-bird discount and several bonus items when you purchase the online multimedia program Don’t Just Sit There! Learn all the details here and gain access today!

What research has demonstrated in the last few years is that people aren’t either active or sedentary—they can be both. Even the active people are, by a new definition coined in movement research, actively sedentary.

Our totally body movement often tends to boil down to what we do for a bout of exercise each day. Trying to extract all of your movement needs from one or two hours of daily exercise is like trying get all your dietary needs from a single daily meal crafted from the same handful of foods every day. This approach just won’t do.

In light of this data on active sedentarism, it is clear that the solution to our movement deficiencies lies outside of our time dedicated to exercise. We all need to become more physically active throughout the day, and move more of our parts in varied ways, in order to provide the mechanical inputs (i.e. movement nutrition) your body needs to thrive.

Here are thirteen ways you can get more movement into your day:

  1. Don’t “run” errands in your car—walk them. Combine your “exercise time” with your “errand time” and walk to get groceries, mail packages, and see friends whenever possible. What seems like a drag will become a habit, and your habit will become a pleasure as you reconnect with your inner walker and your neighborhood too.
  1. Walk to work if you can (even part of the way—can you get off the subway one stop early?), and also walk at work. Take phone meetings on your cell outside, and ask colleagues to join you for walking meetings. You’ll be more energetic and creative in motion.
  1. Create a dynamic workstation—if you’ve picked up a paper in the last year you know that sitting is out. But swapping one static position (sitting) for another (standing) won’t cut it either. You’re still just standing there! There are many brands of desk components on the market that allow you to vary your position and muscle use while continuing to be productive, and many ways to sneak movements while at work. Make it so that you can kneel, lie down, stand up, sit down, and walk around (for detailed instructions, check out Don’t Just Sit There!, of course).
  1. Carry your stuff in a different way. Instead of on your back, or always over your right shoulder, carry your backpack or messenger bag on the front of your body, or in any way you find challenging. Or ditch them altogether a few times a week, and allow your arms to take the load of whatever you need to carry. Carry a basket at the grocery store instead of using a cart. And then walk home with your awkwardly shaped bag! Using your arms in different configurations will awaken sleepy muscles, even in weightlifters. Note: “stuff” includes “little kids.” Get them out of the stroller to walk, and when they get tired, carry them yourself.
  1. Get a chin-up bar in one of your doorways, either at work or at home (or both), and hang out there every time you go through. Change your grips—palms toward you, palms away from you. Start with ten seconds, and work up to hanging for a minute every time you go through the doorway. If you’re already hanging-savvy, turn this into ten pull-ups every time you go through the door.
  1. Take a hike. Walking over natural terrain (vs. the unnatural flat and level ground of the city) gets your feet, knees, hips, and brain working in new and challenging ways. Bonus points if you take off your shoes for a while and really let your feet work how they were supposed to.
  1. Seriously, take off your shoes. Did you know 25% of your body’s bones and muscles are in your feet? And that if you’re a typical person in Western culture you’ve had those incredible feet casted for almost your entire life? Sedentarism isn’t just about the big motions we make—you can be moving across the ground and still have clusters of sedentary cells because of adaptations your body has made to our sedentary, cast-wearing culture. Wake up your sedentary feet and start using all those neglected muscles. Start slowly and work up to a lot of barefoot or minimalist shoe time. (Learn more about transitioning safely in my book Whole Body Barefoot, and in Mark’s book Amazing Feets! which is part of the Don’t Just Sit There! program.)
  1. Sit down. Wait, I’m not done. Sit down on the floor. Floor sitting is one of the most amazing ways to change your joint configurations and work on your balance and strength (as you get up and down!). Why save your floor sitting for your fifteen-dollar yoga class when you can floor sit all the time at home? You don’t have to get rid of your couch…yet. Just choose the floor more often.
  1. Get back up again…without using your hands (no touching them to the ground or placing them on your legs, either). See if you can get up in a similar manner but using your other leg to lead. Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.
  1. Change your habitat. I just told you that you don’t have to get rid of your couch. It’s true that you don’t have to get rid of your couch. But you should start to consider where your sedentary habits are centered, and start changing the things that allow you to be comfortably sedentary. Your habitat is where your habits are at, and oodles of time spent outsourcing your body’s work to your furniture is facilitated by your furniture-rich habitat. Keeping junk food in the house makes it more difficult to eat well, and the same goes for the setup of your home and office environment. If you’re not happy with your habits, consider changing it up to something that’s more nourishing for your body.
  1. Consider movement-friendly media. I’m an information junkie, but all that screen time takes its toll on my body. Find a few podcasts you like, and get some audiobooks (did you know many public libraries offer audiobooks for download now?), and combine your information loading with some movement, either a stretching session at home or—you know what I’m going to say—a walk.
  1. Get a walking buddy. I know, we already talked about walking, but seriously, find someone who will meet you at 5:30 a.m. all year around (or whatever time works for you both), without fail. Being accountable to someone other than yourself helps you get out of bed, and getting to chat and socialize is invaluable. Being an isolated mover is a step up from being sedentary, but being in a community of movers is miraculously health-making in every way.
  1. Dress differently. This is a bonus tip and it’s kind of sneaky. Maybe you are super motivated to move, maybe you know how sedentarism—whether whole-body or spot-specific—negatively impacts your health. But you still find yourself falling short of your movement goals, perhaps especially at work. Try this: stop wearing constrictive clothing. No more jeans, no more stiff shoes, no more uncomfortable bras. NO MORE SPANX. No more belts that dig in a little. No more suit jackets that make it awkward for you to raise your arms over your head. Each of these items of clothing, whether you are aware of it or not, can discourage you from moving throughout the day. A waistband that digs in if you bend might be keeping you from bending. Are you really going to let your pants boss you around? There are more and more options for professional-looking clothes that are completely stretchy and comfortable. If your office is crazy uptight, at least eschew high heels and constrictive undergarments (tighty whities and pushup bras) and send your body “Yeah, it’s okay to move!” signals. Your body’s going to be pretty grateful.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Now go check out Don’t Just Sit There! if you haven’t already!


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41 thoughts on “13 Ways to Move More Throughout the Day (Even While at Work)”

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  1. When I was working my 9 to 5 I lived for my lunch walk breaks. Such a great way to get out of the office, get some fresh air, and get 1-2 miles of walking in before I had to sit the rest of the day.

  2. I’m sure happy to have ditched the bra completely and to have only minimalist footwear but I admit I didn’t think about the rest of my clothing! It’ll be a long process because I buy new clothes very rarely but I will definitely add the squat test to any new pants and the arms-up test to any new top.

    I’m currently trying really hard to ditch my car but I’m scared of the winter. I’m debating weather or not I should buy a freezer and if it will really help me ditch my car. I feel that if I can stock up on good meat, it will enable me to go the crappy grocery store in walking distance.

    1. I’m not there on the bra, but I’m with ya on the restrictive clothes. I was jeans shopping the other day and the kind ladies at the store wanted me to try on smaller jeans. Which I did.
      What is the point of having jeans grab onto your butt for dear life & create a muffin top? Plus I could hardly bend my knees! I was assured the jeans would stretch “a little” and “move with me” as the day wore on. Um…?
      Did I look good in those too small jeans? Yes, I did.
      Did I buy them? No, I did not.
      I prefer moving & breathing to looking like a fashion plate. I’m too sexy for those pants anyway. ????

    2. Ya.. Coco, i never think of our daily go-to-work outfit or dressing will have an impact on our health too! Great article, Mark!

    3. Why go to a crappy grocery store? If you don’t like the one within walking distance, use the car (instead of ditching it) and drive to one you do like. Most grocery stores have enormous parking lots. You can always park at the outer edge of the lot or even a few blocks away. Incorporating more movement into one’s life doesn’t need to be so rigorous that it becomes total deprivation. Small changes done frequently do add up.

      1. Well the reason I want to ditch it is to save money and because I hate to pollute. The fact that I would move more is not the primary reason at all.

  3. I feel great not wearing shoes most of the day. Admittedly I’m working at home, but still, don’t think I could go back to wearing them all day!

  4. another small tip, that has added thousands of steps more for me, is park the furthest away from whatever retail store/market you’re going to. it adds up!

  5. “Are you really going to let your pants boss you around?”

    Hell, no!

  6. The first two would be great, but aren’t realistic for the vast majority of the country… I live in a large metro area and it would be impossible to do either.

    1. Biking is another option for commuting and errands … also, thinking about where you live and/or what next job you take with an active commute in mind. It also might be worth encouraging your local government to support walkable development. American cities weren’t always like this. We developed them this way and can redevelop them to be more human-friendly.

      1. It’s not something I aspire to do, just saying it’s not always an option. I commute 25 miles for work, and would certainly bike occasionally if there weren’t major highways involved. I enjoy having a large house in the suburbs, which I wouldn’t be able to have if I moved to a city center (which wouldn’t matter because most jobs are in suburbs of some sort around here anyway).

        The point is that it’s not feasible nor desirable to try to make every inch of the country “walkable” or “bikeable”.

        1. Every inch of the country, no. Every inch of the cities, YES! There are many cities in the world that strive to do just that. It’s not easy or a quick process but it’s feasible and it’s certainly desirable. Maybe not for you though.

        2. Actually, it is desirable. Suburbs are a relatively new phenomenon and are totally inefficient and dehumanizing in many ways. Much better and more energy efficient to have urban and rural. Let the suburbs revert to farms and woodlands.

    2. I also live in a large metro area and have prioritized walking errands. If I can’t walk to an errand near my house, I will drive to a large city park that’s central to many of my errands and walk through it to get to the places I need to go. Or cluster a few errands together, park a bit away, and walk to get them all done. Bonus if I have to carry loads while I walk.

      The car-centric mentality can often keep us from thinking outside the box but once you start to look for ways to walk more, you’ll find them.

  7. I understand the rationale of constantly shifting position and moving around. However, I’m a grad student; seminars last 3 hours, with a 10 minute break halfway. I can’t write a paper while standing – my lower back very soon hurts so badly that I can’t even think. Literature review takes hours. Writing a paper takes intense and sustained concentration. I do walk whenever I can and I always choose my clothes for comfort.

    Isometrics may be the answer for people who do have to remain static for prolonged periods.

    1. Your low back pain while standing is a red flag, Suz! I speak from experience as an artist/illustrator who spends long hours at the drawing table with very tight focus & repetitive movements. My upper body was gradually assuming the shape of an overcooked shrimp before I made the switch to standing.

      I recommend starting slow with standing. Use it as a break from sitting at first, be aware of posture, then gradually increase the time until sitting becomes the occasional break. Your body will thank you, & once you adjust, focus actually improves when standing! I can get in the flow state as never before. 🙂

      1. Thanks for the advice and concern, Paleo-curious. It’s not just repetitive use, though; there’s some permanent damage from old injuries. The height of the work surface makes a difference – when Í’m standing at the high frame at which I wash sediments (I’m an archaeology student and I do lab work for two days a week), I can stand for much longer than when I’m standing chopping veggies at my kitchen table, which is 2-3″ too short in the leg for me. I have a short torso and long legs for my height. The relative height of chair and desk also makes a big difference to my pain level when I’m sitting.

        I must admit that I can’t imagine standing for the long hours it takes to write a term paper! When I have a deadline looming, I prop myself very comfortably in bed, with pillows supporting my back, neck, and head, and another pillow under my knees. My laptop rests on a tilted stand on my lap. In this position, I can work for protracted periods with no pain anywhere.

  8. I sometimes squat on a chair at a table or desk – I find moving laptop from ottoman (floor sitting) to counter (stand) to table (sit/squat-on-chair) at least keeps things from getting too static.

    Love the suggestion about clothing – I’m a gardener so can move/squat in most of my clothes, but by no means all. Movement-friendly garments let your brain know you’re mobile (or maybe it’s the other way around – stiff clothes warn your brain not to make any sudden/joyful motions?).

    You left out – DOG!! we’re lucky to have most of our errands in walking distance – and maybe even luckier to live with a dog we walk to/around the park for at least an hour a day, plus around the block or more a few other times. And the ball play (kicking, faking out, keep-away – mostly on his end…) definitely helps with balance, coordination, unplanned bursts of speed, and – of course – fun.

    I don’t have a regular walking buddy, but I do walk often socially with a couple of friends. Not comfortable with the vocabulary about “making myself accountable” to someone else… the whole idea for me is to hold my own self to account. I work out and stroll and participate with people, but I don’t need other people to make it work.

    I sometimes notice that I’ll be the last one standing… folks hit the chair at the first opportunity, and I’m still on my feet. So it’s all cumulative (and this list is a great help, thanks).

  9. These are all great tips–though I’m not sure I can give up my Spanx ( a girl needs a little help now and then ya know). I wish my city would get on board with sidewalks and bike lanes. I COULD ride my bike to the yoga studio, but I’d probably be a Flat Yogini on the side of the road eventually. As a side note, I’m typing this while dancing to Samba music at my stand up desk, aka my kitchen counter.

  10. #13 – Since I’ve been been Primal, I’ve gained around 25-30 lbs of lean mass. I can’t stand to wear my old jeans and most of my old shirts now…it drives me nuts and feels like I can’t move properly! I totally vouch for looser clothing now – it makes a world of difference. Breathing is good!

  11. Can anyone suggest some good clothing options for a female that works in an office setting? I’m able to dress semi-casually (jeans and a nice top) or business casual, whichever I prefer on any given day. I just can’t come to work in yoga pants and t-shirts, as much as I would LOVE to. What comfy, movement-friendly options are out there? I already wear minimalist footwear, so I’m covered in that department.

    Sidenote: We had a pajama day at work a few months ago. I have never been so comfortable at work in my entire life, and my productivity was very positively impacted because of that. Moving around and adding in extra activity was so easy and I remember wishing I could wear pajamas to work every day. I can definitely attest to what a difference it makes!

    1. Check out http://www.titlenine.com for some options. They’re a little pricey IMO, but you could get some ideas and then bargain hunt locally or online. I love wrap dresses and A-Line skirts as non-pant options. They let me move and don’t wrinkle like a pencil skirt. Wide-legged palazzo pants are also very movement friendly, though if you’re a bike commuter I think they’d be a hazard with all of that floofiness. HTH.

    2. Maybe the LLBean site would give you some ideas/options. They tend to have lots of outdoorsy type clothes that have a “citified” look yet have some comfort/movement built into them. They’re not the cheapest place around, but when I buy something from them, it’s almost always end-of-season. It’s worth a look even if it’s just for ideas – HTH!

    3. I may be weighing in on this conversation a little late, but I’ve been dressing this way for my office at a university for a few years now and have found that some of my favorite and most comfortable outfits have consisted of a pair of yoga pants (high-waisted works well for me because they look smooth under a dress) and a nice-looking knit dress. I especially like the Villa Dress from Icebreaker Merino as well as their Bliss Wrap. This looks nice with a pair of minimal flats or some cute minimal boots when the weather cools off. I’ve never gotten anything but compliments and I feel completely comfortable and unrestricted. As a bonus, it travels really well, too! BetaBrand also has some really stretchy dress pant/yoga pants that actually look pretty good in person. Mine did tend to grow throughout the day, but they have belt loops, so no problem. So, you might need to think outside the usual boundaries of traditional office-wear, but I’ve had really good luck with these basics. They’ll never know you’re wearing yoga pants.

  12. What a great post! I have been wondering how I could move more at work. Especially on days when I work late and can’t exercise like I want to. As far as clothing goes do you have any brands/sources for affordable, movement enabling clothes? Thanks!


  13. Can’t imagine sitting around all day and calling it a hard days work. Dressing up for ‘work’ seems kid of superficial orsomething like that. What is wrong with being practical?

    1. Corporate Image is usually not a choice. Oh, and don’t get me started on the “sitting around all day” part!

  14. A friend and I used to get out for a brisk walk at lunchtime for 30 mins. Better than nothing although sucking up all the petrol/diesel fumes was not good. What can you do sometimes, filthy air outside and canned air in the office, a no win situation in a big busy city.
    You can do comfortable corporate, pants don’t have to be skin tight just well fitted the same with skirts. You can always take that jacket off when you get into the office and the same with shoes. Plenty of girls wore their runners into work, yeah! sprinting to catch that train or tram, done that more than a few times, then changed their shoes – when they had to. You can buy a good dressy pair of low heeled court shoes that will take you anywhere. I haven’t worn a pair of stilettos for more than 20 years and my back and feet thank me.
    Summer was easy, loose cool cotton dresses, skirts, pants. Who wants to wear spandex or tight anything when it’s so hot.
    Getting up off the floor without using hands, does rolling to your feet count, I used to be good at that. Practice!

  15. As I have learned over the last two months, the best walking buddy is a dog! Always ready to go! And you can let them choose their own path a little bit, don’t always take the same routes.

  16. I have this simple thing that a few peeps have posted here, but i call it ParkOnce.
    Did you ever see or patronize one of this bigger shopping complexes – the ones that seem to have a couple of big stores, perhaps a bank, a food store, maybe a Staples or office supply store?
    Rather than getting back in your car to go onto the next store => ParkOnce.
    Semi-plan out the route.
    Bank, then office supply store, then food store.
    Route yourself around and cash in on the steps you accumulate!

  17. Hello,

    You had a $10 off until September 2nd along with other goodies for ordering Don’t Just Sit There!. I’m trying to order and the discount is gone, even though it’s still September 2 (admittedly only for another half hour, but still).

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Well you have terrible customer service. Glad I didn’t pay for this service. Too bad though, since I really appreciate the work of Katy Bowman.

  18. First thing I do when I come home from the office is stripping down to the flesh in one movement. Working without bra is no option for this girl 🙂 but at home I never wear one. NO more high heels, lose clothings, never tight jeans, barefoot at home. I want a ball for work!

  19. Funny, My wife and I spend $2,000 dollars on a couch, and I never sit on it. Indian style, squatting, and spread eagle with back propped against the couch are prefered situations for working on school (lap top on the coffee table and usually squatting or indian style) or gaming (I know, I know, but you have to squeeze some ace combat in once or twice a week.) Other than that, it was a $2,000 dollar guest appeaser. I sometimes sleep on it, as I do find it more comfortable than my bed, but I can sleep about anywhere.

  20. This is such great information. Thank you for being a positive voice and source of information for so many people. We teach our patients and clients some of these strategies. We also teach them gentle movements to do through out the day to turn on their neuromuscular systems. We are actually in the process of putting together 7 day tutorial. It’s based on 6 fundamental movement patterns that incorporated the whole body. Keep up the great work. Love following your blog.