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The Best Career Paths for a More Physically Active Lifestyle

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Does the thought of a desk job make your muscles ache? It should. Sitting is the new smoking, after all.

Studies show that sitting for a long period of time per day leads to obesity and high blood pressure. It also increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and even cancer.  

Mitigating the negative effects of prolonged sitting with exercise is possible. But it’s not as easy as hopping on the treadmill for 30 to 60 minutes after hours of sitting.

Low activity levels throughout the day can lead to exercise resistance. Exercise resistance means that even if you reach your step goal during your morning or afternoon run, your body holds onto fat rather than burning it. If you have a desk job, you can prevent exercise resistance by taking small breaks to stand, stretch or walk throughout the day.

A Desk Job Isn’t for Everyone  

Even if you manage to take small breaks during the day, getting your steps in or hitting the gym after a full day of work can feel impossible. Believe me, I know.

My first full-time job out of college was a shock to my system. I spent four hours a day in my car commuting to and from work, where I had to sit at a desk for eight hours.

A few months into my new position, I began to feel my body changing. I gained weight and felt lethargic, even depressed. A desk job wasn’t something for which I was properly prepared.   

If fitness is a key part of your life, a desk job may not be right for you. For those who aren’t athletes or fitness junkies but find it hard to balance a desk job with dedicated exercise time, consider a less sedentary role. Luckily, there are many career options for those who fall on either side of the athletic spectrum. 

Career Options for Physically Active Lifestyles

If fitness is your passion, then locating a physically active career is a walk through the park. There are several jobs that require physical activity throughout the day, including:

  • Athlete
  • Fitness instructor
  • Personal trainer
  • Physical education teacher

If these types of roles interest you, consider looking into the University’s Sports and Health Sciences and Sports Management programs.

Careers with a Good Balance

Of course, you don’t need to work in a gym to pursue a more physically active career. There are a ton of career options from a variety of industries that balance desk work and physical activity.

For those interested in environmental science, there are some roles that require a degree of physical activity and let you work outside — which is a bonus! Consider looking into outdoor-oriented careers such as an environmental scientist, fish and game warden, park naturalist, and soil or water conservationist.  

Other careers that require a good bit of standing or walking include:   

  • Firefighter, forest firefighter or fire investigator
  • Hospitality worker, such as an event planner, concierge or tour guide
  • Police or probation officer
  • Real estate agent
  • Security officer
  • K-12 teacher or higher education professor 

Many of these roles provide a good blend of desk work and physical activity, which is perfect for people who don’t want to be tethered to their chair all day or have a physically demanding job. If any of these careers piques your interest, the University offers several undergraduate and graduate programs that you may want to research, including:

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in teaching, be aware that the University’s Master of Education in Teaching program is a non-licensure program designed for currently licensed educators. The university also offers other Master of Education programs you may be interested in checking out, including an M.Ed. in Online Teaching.

For those interested in real estate, understand that the University’s associate degree in Real Estate Studies does not award certification. Instead, it serves to prepare aspiring real estate agents for certification programs.

To perform your own research on different career paths, visit O*NET OnLine.

Flexibility Is Key When It Comes to Balancing Physical Activity and Working

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, physically active jobs make up less than 20% of the U.S. workforce. Given the small percentage of physically active career options available, it’s only natural to assume that most of us will wind up with a more sedentary role.

If you have or are pursuing a job with little physical activity, you can still maintain an active lifestyle. The key is having a flexible schedule.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses transitioned to a remote environment, letting their employees work from home. Remote jobs offer employees more flexibility in terms of work hours and work environment. But this increased flexibility isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The average employee has actually lengthened their workday by 48 minutes and increased their number of meetings by 13% since the start of the pandemic. Without the separation of an office environment, your work life and home life can bleed into one another, making it difficult to walk away from your job.

But if you use this flexibility to your advantage, remote work can help you stay more physically active during the workday. For instance, set your work hours to incorporate dedicated exercise time into your day according to when you feel the most energetic. If you have the most energy in the morning, consider waking up earlier to exercise or going for a walk during your lunch hour.

Remember to set strict boundaries so you don’t become engrossed in your work. Set a reminder on your phone to take breaks and to log off for the day. Schedule your time wisely so you don’t end up staying late to finish a project that’s due the next morning.

Find the Career Path That Suits Your Personal Values

Maintaining a steady level of physical activity during the workday is important for everyone’s physical well-being. How much physical activity you want or need is unique to you. And whether or not you choose a career path that helps you incorporate that physical activity is also up to you.

If you need help exploring careers that best suit your interests, skills and needs, reach out to your Career Exploration Specialist. Together, you can pinpoint ideal career paths that align with your personal values. For help determining which academic programs suit your needs, contact Academic Advising.

Kass Williams serves as the Career Services Coordinator, employing her communication, editing and project management skills to support the Career Services Department with content creation. She holds a B.A. in English with a Writing Concentration from Davis & Elkins College.

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