We are back after the summer holidays and many of us are sitting at our desks for 8 hours a day or more; we are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Health issues caused by sitting or being less active are costing businesses billions and the human cost in terms of injury and disease is high. It’s hard to produce our best work when we are tired, uncomfortable and suffering from aches and pains, and it is not just your physical health that will benefit from getting moving. Exercise has a positive effect on mental health and in particular anxiety and stress, which are endemic in the working population today.
The World Health Organisation tells us that we should be standing for 4 hours a day and doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week as a minimum. But how is this possible given business demands. Here are my top tips:
- Get creative with your meetings. Walking or standing meetings are a great way to get staff moving, burning calories and increasing their energy. Walking meetings are also a great environment to have difficult conversations with team members, so get out in the fresh air, walk and talk.
- Get up from your desk regularly. Go and talk to colleagues rather than sending emails and take 5 minutes to walk up and down the stairs every hour or so. This gets the muscles moving, the blood flowing and the heart pumping.
- Get out of the office at lunchtime. Research shows that cardio exercise which is done in blocks of 10 minutes or more benefits our health and productivity so it actually takes very little time. Just make sure you get your heart rate up to a 7 out of 10 (out of breath but you could hold a brief conversation). Getting outside at lunchtime will also help beat the post lunch slump and boost productivity
- Do simple movements at your desk, which will go unnoticed by your colleagues! Try drawing the alphabet with your feet; do simple leg stretches to increase blood flow; suck in your stomach, hold for a few seconds and release then repeat (this can also be done with the glutes, the muscles in your bottom). And if you are feeling adventurous, try doing 20 squats every time you go to the bathroom.
- Think about your commute. This is the best way to get moving more in the working day. Things like taking the stairs rather than the lift, walking up the escalators or getting off the train or bus a stop early are all things that we should be doing as standard. Think about whether you can walk or cycle to work. Many cities are smaller than you think and walking can take about the same amount of time as public transport, which you consider rush hour traffic or waiting for the train.
- Think about your posture. Sitting effectively and eliminating excess tension will help you move with more freedom and ease. This is not about sitting stiffly with a string coming out the top of your head but sitting with economy of effort; this will instantly boost your energy levels.
We might not be able to banish desk jobs for good but there are many things we can do to be more active in the working day and these small changes will have a big effect in terms of overall health and productivity.