Generations before us spent most of their waking hours doing chores and manual work that couldn’t be completed sitting down. Both their paid and unpaid work was far more physical than it is today. With advances in technology, much of that manual work is now done by machines. We now have the challenge of increasing the opportunities for physical activity in the workplace so we spend less time sitting and more time moving.
Many workers assume it’s impossible to get in any exercise during work hours, but they may just need some hints on things they can do to incorporate activity in their work day. Make it your mission to encourage your colleagues to be more active.
Sitting has been dubbed the new smoking. So, the less time you spend in your chair at the office, the better. You don’t need to spend eight hours standing for health benefits. In fact, research shows the ideal setup is to alternate regularly between sitting and standing during the day.
When you’re standing, you’re more inclined to walk around. It’s a good idea to regularly give your body a break from staring at a screen. Walking to the kitchen for a glass of water or visiting a colleague’s desk gets the blood circulating, the muscles stretched, gives the eyes a rest and reduces the risk of a repetitive injury.
Managers can set a good example by holding stand-up meetings. Rather than have staff settle into meeting chairs, opt to have a meeting where the team stands. A meeting of two or three staff can even be a walking meeting. Take a stroll outside and talk while you walk.
Make exercise a part of the workday with organised activities. Encourage departments or individuals to compete against each other in walk to work days, or record how often they took the stairs instead of the lift. Holding lunchtime sporting events can encourage friendly rivalry within the organisation or challenge a neighbouring workplace to a game at the park.
If workers don’t want to get sweaty running around at lunchtime, you could offer yoga or a Pilates class. For those organisations with the space, a few pieces of gym equipment could be well used by workers.
If your organisation has a social club that does sedentary activities like Friday night drinks, make some suggestions for events that are a little more active. Barefoot bowling, a walk that supports a good cause, laser or paintballing gets workers outside and moving around.
Some employers might argue that it’s up to employees to find time outside work hours to exercise and keep fit. But research shows that exercising throughout the week is more beneficial than doing your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise on the weekend. Ongoing activity throughout the day provides a range of benefits.
Encouraging staff to stay active at work is a win-win for employees and the organisation.