Returning to work in the office and keeping your fitness on track
Posted on 20 Mar, 2022
Running cool down image.

Returning to the office and its impacts on your health and fitness

After covid, the return the office may be a relief for some but a necessary evil for others. Either way, any return to the office is going to have a number of potential impacts on your health and fitness, from a higher level of daily activity, through to greater stress owing to the commute. Many will also find it more difficult to fit in their time for the gym or fitness goals. Here’s our guide on how to maximise the good things that returning to the office will bring, while working around or minimising the negative effects.

The pros of returning to the office – more daily energy expenditure

The first and most obvious positive aspect of returning to work after the covid is that you’ll have a greater level of daily activity. If you are in a sedentary desk job, then it’s likely that working from home has been the same, and that you’ve had a couple of years of very low levels of incidental activity. Your job may not have changed, but the very act of having to go into the office, with the commute and walking to meetings, walking to get a coffee, and similar will mean that overall you may find it a lot easier to get a good number of steps in each day. Of course, in addition to this you could increase activity further by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from your destination if you drive, or getting off the bus/tube one stop early and walking the rest of the way.

The pros of returning to the office – workmates can be supportive to your fitness goals

One of the most positive things about returning to work is being able to spend time with your colleagues. Sometimes, they might be people you see every day, sometimes they might not. Either way, it’s always nice to have someone at work who can understand what you’re going through and what a challenge juggling a demanding workload and a fitness goal can be. It can also be helpful for your fitness goal if there are other people in the office who are trying to keep fit too. They may have new training tips or food ideas for when you’re struggling with healthy eating.

The cons of returning to the office: the commute

There are some cons to consider when returning to the office. Firstly, the commute itself could have a more detrimental effect on your health and fitness, as you give up time each day that could be used for exercise or work out sessions. Mixing on tight-packed public transport is going to make it more likely that you may pick up coughs and colds again, and of course we aren’t totally through Covid yet either. Alternatively, if you’re travelling by car, your commute is likely to involve sitting in traffic for greater lengths of time – something that is far from good for your health.

The cons of returning to the office: less time for the gym

The most obvious negative effect of returning to the office is that you are more likely to have less time to go to the gym. The morning commute, from home to work, will take up a significant chunk of your day. There’s also a possibility you’ll also be working longer hours at the office which may mean less time for exercise once again.

The cons of returning to the office: convenience lunches

Being in the office means that you’ll often have the opportunity to nip out to one of the many chain or individual eating spots for lunch. If controlling your calories is part of your plan, it can be quite difficult to keep a close eye on what you are consuming. Further even when calories are listed, you may notice just how much higher calorie these foods are than the same food prepared at home.

How to maximise the good things that come with returning to the office and minimise the bad

The following measures can counteract or help with the issues listed above.

– If you’re lucky enough to have a desk job, take some time out during the day for a walk around the office or building. Try taking a lunch break away from your desk as well, and find a colleague to go with. In fact, studies have shown that people who dine with colleagues are more likely to feel energised after lunch than those who eat alone. Little things like planning meetings in rooms which require you to walk a little further, or take the stairs can all add up your overall activity.

-If it’s an option, try cycling to work. Your workplace may even have a cycle-to-work scheme to help with this. If you are too far away, you could even split your journey: train into one of the major terminals and then grab a bike from one of the cycle share-schemes to complete your journey.

– If you find that your commute creates a time issue for your gym programme, you may need to mitigate this with shorter, more intensive gym sessions, or switching some of your sessions to the weekend. You may also choose to switch your gym to one near the office, so you can use your lunchtime for a session, or go straight from work to the gym, and avoid the peak of the commute time.

-Higher levels of general activity might mean that you wish to focus your gym time on activities you can train and improve at – weight training or high intensity cardio which go by principles of progressive overload. Leaving out general long-slow-distance type cardio and relying on your increased level of incidental activity to keep your daily calorie burn high can save you time also.

-While meal preparation may seem like a time-consuming activity, it actually can be a considerable time-saver. Finding recipes that you can batch cook, pack individually, and freeze means that with just 30 minutes of cooking can get you a full 6-8 meals. A couple of hours of meal prep on a weekend can get you all your meals across 3-4 recipes for your entire week. Then a few minutes of microwaving is all that’s needed during the week.

Conclusion

Returning to work in the office can be tough. You need to shlep in with thousands of others, and work to a schedule that may not be as flexible as you would like. But there are ways to make your return to the office easier and get off on the right foot when it comes to your health and fitness.

We recommend setting a plan in advance with your boss or line manager to ensure that you still have some flexibility with your hours and work commitments. Along with the points discussed above, a little bit of planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on track with your fitness goals.

 

If you’d like to talk to us about how to structure your goals and habits, by all means please get in touch on the form below.

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