You should workout in jeans (I do)

Appropriate workout clothes (image by Per Ljung)

Appropriate workout clothes (image by Per Ljung)

At various points over the past few years, I have been fortunate to basically have a gym as my office.  I’ve worked near treadmills, exercise bikes, light free weights, and a bunch of machines (bench press, leg press, a chin-up bar, etc).  The gyms have always been for research and data collection, but there were plenty of opportunities for those of us working in the lab to pop out and do a quick set almost anytime we liked.  And it was awesome.

During my time in the lab I would often take a short break to do a set of bench press, chin-ups, or leg press.  And when I had to do some reading (which, as a researcher, is pretty often), I would do it while riding one of the exercise bikes. Most of the time I did all these exercises while wearing my work clothes (typically jeans and a dress shirt or polo shirt).   It felt a bit strange to do bench press while wearing a dress shirt, but it saved soooooo much time.  By the end of the day it was great to know that I didn’t have to spend another 45 minutes working out, as I’d already done a full workout spread throughout the day.  And after an hour or two staring at a computer screen, it feels really good to do something physical for a change.

Why can’t every workplace be like this?  Aside from the obvious fact that most of us don’t work in a gym.  But it wouldn’t be that hard to place a few weight machines within an office building.  Like one of those outdoor gyms you sometime see in parks, but in the break room.  I now work in a traditional office, which is conveniently located in a building beside a gym.  And yet I already do WAY less weight training than I have done in other work environments where workout equipment was never more than a few feet away.

Wouldn’t it be great to walk down the hall and see someone riding a bike while wearing high heels, or doing bench press in a polo shirt?  Wouldn’t you feel better if you could workout during the day, rather than sitting the whole time?  And think of the time it would save (or the extra workouts you would get in).

I realize this is a bit of a pipe dream.  So, for now, I’m saving up all my reading so that I can do it all in batches while I ride the bike at the gym.  And I will close my office door to do push-ups every once in a while without people thinking I’m a weirdo.  Maybe I can fit a chin-up bar behind the door?  Next time you’re bored at work consider trying a little resistance training (assuming it’s safe, of course). I bet you will be glad you did.


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12 Responses to You should workout in jeans (I do)

  1. Louise says:

    Right on! Chin-up bars and resistance bands are easy and cheap. I sneak in regular rounds of squats when no one is around…

  2. Andy says:


    Have you done any research on the use of standing desks? People used to think them weird but they are catching on slowly. By standing up you are using energy to keep upright and steady. It’s also easier to shift around and use more energy in the process. One caveat- pooling blood would still require walking around for a minute or two every half hour, as should be the case for sitters.

    I don’t think it would be too much more of a leap to bolt a couple of hooks to the wall and two more recessed in the floor for bungee strap anchors. These anchors would eventually be designed into the work station. Straps can be whipped out of a drawer and attached in seconds. Straps are lightweight, silent, unobtrusive, not clunky so very suitable for an office environment. Also, I think women would take to straps much more readily than weights when in the office rather than the gym.

    • Travis Saunders, Phd, MSc, CEP says:

      I am literally about to start a project on this. I agree that standing lends itself to some natural movement much moreso than sitting.

      The only concern with having too much activity at your desk is that it might be disruptive, at least if you worked in a cubicle. But I have thought of buying some of those straps to attach to my office door, so i can squeeze in a quick set from time to time.

  3. Roberta says:

    How does this fit in with the standard ‘do 20 minutes of warmups before you exercise?’ advice. That’s what’s keeping me from grabbing a set of barbells and doing curls while at work. Seems like if you have to warm up it’s more efficient to do everything in one go – but then you’re looking at 45 min of time in one chunk. It would be great to find out if you could get similar results (some strength and toning, not giant muscle building) with unwarmed-up exercises. Could be a great research project.

    • Louise says:

      Unless you’re talking about pumping iron shortly after waking up and crawling out of bed, it seems that the movement involved in getting to work is ample warmup. If you work at home and aren’t moving a lot before sitting down at the desk, do 5–10 minutes of squats, pushups, jumping jacks just to tell your body you’re going to push it a bit.

      20 minutes seems unnecessary, but I will wait for more expert advice on this!

    • Travis says:

      I’m not an expert on the warm-up side of things… personally I don’t find a problem with jumping into a set of push-ups, etc, without a warm-up. But I do these exercises fairly frequently, and if something feels off then I stop. So what works for me may not work for everyone.

      I’d also suggest that people NOT do maximal exercise in this sort of situation. I’m talking more about reasonably easy exercises that you can do to get a small workout in, but that aren’t intense enough to pose a large risk of injury.

  4. Workout in jeans – an innovative idea. I t will keep you motivated to get slim and trim…………………..

  5. Cristian says:

    Not to shoot down a somewhat interesting suggestion, but:
    You do realise that working out in tight-fitting clothing (i.e. jeans) can lead to various degrees of testicular pain, swelling and altogether inflammation and probably lowers the sperm-count for men?
    I’m extrapolating to prove a point, but it could be understood that you’re advising women to actually workout (i.e. lift weights) in high-heels. If riding a bike in high heels is doable (the Danes or the Dutch prove it) workouts would be the next step, theoretically. But weight-bearing would be seriously dangerous on those things.

    • Travis says:

      I think that these things obviously need to be done with some common sense in mind. If it’s uncomfortable or dangerous to do something (e.g. lunges in heels), then I don’t think people should do it.

  6. Dan says:

    Note that some gyms may hassle patrons for working out in jeans. At least, mine (the Embarcadero YMCA in San Francisco) does. The best that the trainer could offer when I asked why was a lame, “the denim wears out the material on the machines”.

    • Travis Saunders, Phd, MSc, CEP says:

      I completely agree. And I think that that culture is something that probably keeps a lot of people out of the gym (and is generally espoused by the same people who complain that people aren’t willing to work out enough).

  7. Suzanne says:

    I really like this post! I just started a desk job and am already finding it to strain my body (I know how counter intuitive that sounds). I always make a point to walk in the morning and at lunch (and the aft if time allows). I also start everyday with yoga or a run, walk or bike to work, and try to do something active when i get home (either yoga, running, biking, or climbing). Still, I feel like I am deconditioning faster than the speed of light!

    My workplace is pretty accepting of being active, but I would still feel akward breaking a sweat in my dress pants. If only there were a way to make it more socially and culturall acceptable. Sigh. Until then I’ll do my lunges in the handicapped stall!