Lunch-time Exercise


The ideal lunch hour involves some exercise, especially if, like me, you spend your day staring at a computer monitor. (In fact, I have two monitors, which probably means double the radiation and double the eye-strain… sadly, I haven’t yet persuaded the boss that he’d like to give me two salaries as well!)

Depending on where you work, you might like to go for a walk to stretch your legs and clear your head: if you can persuade a colleague or two to join you, even better. I spent three months temping for a company at Cambridge Science Park, and there was an admirable office routine of everyone going out at lunchtime for a half-hour walk around the lovely grounds, past the lake and trees.

Exercise Duration Calories
Walking (moderate) 30 mins 110
Walking (faster) 30 mins 145

Gym – an hour

I now work in Brixton in South London, which is less conductive to pleasant lunchtime walks (the bright yellow police signs appealing for “MURDER” witnesses are somewhat offputting.) If your office is similarly located on a bustling high street, you might find other options nearby. Is there a gym within a few minutes walk? I’m lucky enough to have two, the local council recreation centre, and a Fitness First.

In a lunch hour, you’ve got time to speed-walk to the gym, get changed, and have a quick workout. I found I could manage about 25-30 minutes on the machines, which is long enough for a decent workout but short enough for even my attention span. A speedy workout like this means you can put the intensity up a notch and get good and sweaty (just make sure you leave time to shower afterwards, before heading back to the office…) You may have to eat lunch at your desk while “working” but so long as your boss doesn’t raise any objections, it’s worth it to get some exercise in.

Gym – a bit longer

After I’d been in my current job for about six months, I shifted my hours slightly to start earlier on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and take an extra half-an-hour for lunch. If your employer is amenable to this sort of “lite” flexitime, do ask if it would be possible: many offices allow employees to stagger hours and take longer or shorter lunch breaks as they prefer. I’m no longer trying to jog with one eye on the clock (after a few near-misses with the treadmill, I’ve learned to keep my attention on where my feet are anyway.) Plus I keep fifteen minutes at the end of my lunch-hour to relax and eat my lunch, rather than trying to tap away at a spreadsheet whilst stuffing a sandwich in my mouth.

Exercise Duration Calories
Rowing machine (moderate) 15 mins 105
Rowing machine (vigorous) 15 mins 165


You might be lucky enough to have decent shower facilities available at work: if so, make the most of this! (My office does have a shower, but it looks like it was last cleaned in the previous century… I doubt it’s ever been used.) You can change into jogging bottoms and a t-shirt (not forgetting that all-important sports bra if you’re female), and go for a 20-30 minute jog. If you’re just starting to exercise, there are lots of plans to help you gradually build up stamina: try alternating walking with jogging, gradually reducing the duration of the walking intervals.

If you work in the middle of a town centre like me, you might feel rather exposed running down the high street – and risk getting arrested as a suspect shop-lifter. See if you can find an isolated park anywhere nearby, where you could jog in circuits, or just some quieter back roads.

Exercise Duration Calories
Jogging (moderate pace) 15 mins 160

Other – swim, roller-blade, cycle, skate…

With a bit of ingenuinity, there are plenty of other fun exercise options possible in a lunch-hour. If you cycle to work [link] then you can take the bike out for a quick spin, exploring some of the places a little further from your workplace than the newsagent’s and sandwich bar. If there’s a pool nearby, a brief dip is a truly relaxing break from the office – you’ll feel a world away from work once you’re in the water. Challenge yourself to gradually increase the number of lengths you can do in half an hour.

A couple of streets away from my office is a skate park, full of bumps, ramps and behooded teenagers. This could be a great chance to relive or rediscover your youth – dig out your roller-blades or skateboards, and persuade a friend to join you!

Exercise Duration Calories
Swimming (moderate pace) 30 mins 235

(All calorie counts in this article are based on an 11 stone woman.)

(Image of walkers in park by Robi Ferrari)
(Image of skateboarder by Seb)

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