Well-Being//

How to Use Small Bursts of Movement to Instantly Improve Your Day

From lunging between meetings to stretching at your desk, squeezing in these quick moments of exercise can boost your mood and reduce your stress.

AndreyPopov/ Getty Images
AndreyPopov/ Getty Images

When you incorporate movement into your day, you physically feel better and your stress decreases. And while regular exercise has been shown to improve our ability to make complex decisions and boost our mood, prioritizing small bursts of movement — even a stretch — can also help reset a stressful moment and calm a racing mind. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the ways they use Microsteps to boost their mood, lessen their stress, or improve their day. Which of these reasons will inspire you to fit a burst of movement into your schedule today?

Jump for 60 seconds before a meeting

“If I am in a mental or emotional slump and need to be ‘on’ for a meeting, I rely on one of the simplest physical actions: I jump up and down in place for 60 seconds. The trick is to give yourself positive affirmations while you’re jumping. I tell myself I’m going to succeed in the meeting, and that I’m prepared. Connecting a physical change in my state with a positive mental focus shifts my mood and leaves me ready for action.”

—Paige Lewis, professional development coach, Los Angeles, CA

Stretch while you’re on a call

“I make a point of stretching at least once an hour if I’m working from home. I set a reminder on my phone to stand up, stretch, and do a few arm circles, even on calls! Nobody can see me, and I always feel better afterwards.”

—Lori Paulin, customer advocate, Palo Alto, CA

Take a break for a solo dance party

“My favorite way to energize during the work day is by having a mini-dance party! I set an alarm to turn off my computer, disconnect from my phone, and play a song or two that I love. I start with some gentle stretches to warm up, then I jump around, shake out my limbs, and release any tension I’ve been holding from the day. Dancing in the middle of the workday feels amazing, and breaks up the monotony of sitting and typing. It also makes any stressful thoughts feel far less overwhelming.”

—Tianna Soto, performing artist and educator, New York, NY

Do ten jumping jacks to re-energize yourself

“When I worked in an office, I would always hit an energy slump between in the afternoons, almost like clockwork. I could barely keep my eyes open some days. A colleague suggested when that tiredness hits, I should get up from my desk and do ten jumping jacks. I thought she was kidding, but I did it several times and it always did the trick.”

—Rachelle Stone, executive coach, Clearwater, FL

Shake out your stress

“The shakes! That’s my go-to when I need to release stress or refocus. Instead of forcing myself to find focus when I’ve lost it, I get up and shake every part of my body that has movement. It looks ridiculous, but it works! I start with my hands, shake up to my shoulders, my chest, and throw my hair around. As I shake everything, I can visualize the stress or lack of focus peeling off my body and falling to the floor. Then, I take a deep breath and try again.”

—GiGi Diaz, entrepreneur, Miami, FL 

Walk around the office 

“I have found several ways to creatively sneak in movement throughout the day. If I feel that I’ve been sitting too long, I will get up and walk across the office to ask a question that could have been discussed via email.  I tend to roll out my neck and wrists when I use the restroom. Every time I stand up for coffee or water, I take five deep breaths and then touch my toes to stretch out my legs and back. I’m also fortunate enough to have a standing desk, so I try to alternate standing and sitting as needed.  Sneaking in these moves leaves me feeling energized and ready to move on to the next thing on my agenda.”

—Kaleen Skersies, real estate development, Seattle, WA 

Do lunges between meetings

“I think of movement as natural medicine, and that keeps me on my toes! Reminding myself that movement is beneficial for the body and mind gives me the motivation to add fitness into my day.  If I have a 15-minute gap between clients, I find myself squatting, planking, dipping, and lunging — because any movement is better than no movement!”

—Maria Faller, President, Be A Better You Fitness, New York, NY

Squat while your coffee brews

“Instead of viewing exercise as ‘all or nothing,’ I’m a big believer in taking micro-breaks for movement! It’s amazing what a one-minute or five-minute burst of exercise several times each day can do. This can include a set of squats while your coffee brews, a neck or chest stretch after a phone call, or climbing the stairs in between meetings.”

—Gillian Goerzen, personal trainer and health coach, B.C., Canada

Try the “six twists” stretch

“When I sit all day and find myself slouching over my computer, I use a quick ‘Six Twists of the Spine’ stretch. Our spines naturally move in six directions, and taking time to stretch that way helps improve flexibility and gets our blood moving to our limbs and to our brains. While you’re sitting down, gently close your eyes, putting your hands on your knees and keeping your back straight. Slowly turn your shoulder and head as far as you can easily go in one direction, then the other. Take your right arm, stretch it overhead with pointed fingers, and then do the same on your left. Lastly, place your hands on your knees gently, and arch your back up by tucking in your chin, and then raising your chin toward the sky. Repeat six times!”

—Mary Garden, leadership coach and entrepreneur, Victoria, B.C,. Canada

Try a one-minute wall squat at the office

“I find that a good brisk walk around the block will get me back to ‘normal’ quickly. If I am in a confined space, I’ll do one-minute wall squats and chair push-ups to get my heart pumping, my legs moving, and tone my arms and abdomen.”

—Rosemary Ravinal, public speaker and coach, Miami, FL

Walk around on conference calls

“When I’m on a call, I always want to be standing and moving. I find being upright and walking ensures I’m fully focused on the conversation, even during those hour-long conference calls. It improves my tone and listening ability as well as avoiding distractions from screens.”

—Nick Peacock-Smith, strategic business leader, Brooklyn, NY

Take a “productive break”

“I work from home, so when I feel my focus lagging, I take what I call a ‘productive break,’ where I’ll get up and unload the dishwasher, or throw in a load of laundry, or maybe chop the veggies for tonight’s dinner. These little five-minute breaks get me up from my desk, allow me to move a little, and then let me return to my desk feeling refreshed and refocused.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Try a team challenge

“Each month, I have a different mini-challenge that I encourage everyone to participate in! In November, we had Planksgiving, where we wrote down different plank variations on pieces of paper, and put them in a basket. Whenever there was a group meeting or some downtime, we picked an exercise out of the basket and got a short burst of activity in together. It’s a great way to make exercise fun and social!”

—Kristi Farmer, fitness professional, Wind Lake, WI

Stroll around the block

“A big part in finding a balance includes a daily walk. It doesn’t have to be long, far, or fast. Sometimes even a 10-minute walk does the trick. It’s the best way to clear my mind — and in the meantime, it keeps me healthy. It is something I incorporate into my daily — usually busy — schedule.”

—Peggy J., life coach, South Africa 

Carve out five-minute breaks

“I’m a big believer in the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by someone who mastered the art of time management, it requires 25 minutes of task-focused activity followed by a five-minute break. So I set my timer and get to work on my to-dos: responding to emails, paying bills, cleaning the bathroom, folding the laundry, and whatever else needs to get done. As soon as the timer goes off, I walk into my kitchen, tell Alexa to play my ‘I’m a productivity rockstar’ playlist, and start dancing. When my five minutes are up, I tell Alexa to be quiet, catch my breath, and return to my to-do list.”

—Bev Bachel, freelance writer, Minneapolis, MN

Try a spine-lengthening stretch

“When I reach a moment of intensity, I find myself going to another room to take off my shoes. For some reason, feeling connected to the earth anchors my mind. I stand with my legs hip-width apart, roll my upper body, reach for the floor, and then slowly uncurl my spine upwards vertebrae by vertebrae. The key is to incorporate deep in and out breaths with the movement.”

—Louise S, management consultant, London, U.K.

Is there a small burst of movement that helps to boost your mood and improve your day? Share it with us in the comments! 

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