How to stay healthy while working from home

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Editor’s note: This column appeared in the newspaper in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home. As remote work continues, it’s a reminder of ways to avoid health issues due to being sedentary.

Working from home can have its perks, but it can also reinforce a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for hours on end decreases circulation, increasing sluggishness and fatigue, and tends to increase calorie consumption throughout the day.

If there is little to no physical exertion on a regular basis, the muscles also lose strength and flexibility. When we sit, the hamstrings for example, shorten (contract), as do the hip flexors. You may notice this when you go from a seated to a standing position, as the legs will feel stiff. To offset this, make a point to stand every half hour and move the legs, either by marching in place or doing a few lunges or squats. Moving the arms to the front, back, sides and overhead is another way to incorporate movement.

Sudden exertion can be dangerous, so it is advised that you move at a moderate pace and controlled manner. Once seated you can perform some ankle pumps and foot circles, along with leg extensions.

More tips:

Be accountable to yourself. Making a simple note each day that you have been successful at being more active can boost confidence and motivation. If there are days when you are unable to adhere to your plan, make a separate note of why, and then honestly assess whether or not it is a valid reason or an excuse. It can take about three weeks to establish a new habit, but each day is a step in the right direction, so be patient.

To strengthen the midsection, sit toward the front of your chair, lean back slowly, keeping both feet on the floor until you feel your abs tighten. Pause for a few seconds and return to an upright position. For a challenge, after leaning back, lift feet slightly from the floor for a count of 5. To strengthen the back of the arms, hold onto the armrests of your chair, keeping elbows in, and try pushing yourself up with little to no use of your legs. Pushups can be performed standing, using a wall, desk or other sturdy surface. For working the back of the thighs, sit toward the very front of the chair and one leg at a time, bring the lower leg backward until you feel the muscles tighten, as if trying to touch the heel to the rear end. Hold for a count of 10 seconds and repeat, aiming for 10 repetitions per leg. Then, with feet side by side and a right angle at the knees, raise the heels from the floor until you feel the calf muscles contracting, and hold for a count of 5, and repeat.

Walking is an easy way to speed metabolism and burn extra calories. Three 10-minute walks during the day is manageable for most people, even with stressful schedules. The body adjusts quickly to walking because it is a natural activity. In order to increase fitness, strength and relieve potential boredom, try taking a different route next time you head out, or increase duration, speed or frequency.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to

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