Rewards & BenefitsHealth and WellbeingNine simple ways to stay active in the workplace

Nine simple ways to stay active in the workplace

What does a typical working day look like? For many of us, it involves spending long hours behind our desks at work, then going home and relaxing in front of the TV, surfing the web or chatting to friends on the phone for the remainder of the evening. These are all standard ways to wind down after a hard day at the office.

However, regular inactivity and a continuously sedentary lifestyle could have a long-term negative impact on our wellbeing. In fact, research has shown how this type of lifestyle is on one of the reasons there is a rise in illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer. A positive start to tackling the problem is as simple as hitting 10,000 steps a day. However, for those with full-time jobs, it’s often hard to find the time to fit in exercise or to break our routine of refreshing emails.

Here are 9 ways you can effortlessly add extra steps and break up periods of sitting throughout the day, without disrupting your routine at work.

  1. Walk to work

Leave your car at home and make the journey to work by foot. It may mean leaving slightly earlier, but the health benefits far outweigh the costs.

Increased physical activity can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by as much as 35 percent and also significantly improve mental health.

For added motivation, invest in a device to track your steps, you’ll be surprised how soon they add up thanks to small changes.

Now, this isn’t possible for everyone, so if you travel by train or bus, why not…

  1.  Get off a stop early

Not everyone lives walking distance from work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in some extra steps each morning.

Hop off your bus or tube a station before your usual stop to get in a short walk before you start your day. Research shows short, intense walks can even be more beneficial than walking longer distances, raising your heart rate above that of a long distance walk at a leisurely pace.

  1. Park further away

Sorry, there are no excuses. Instead of pulling up right outside your office, pick a spot at the other end of the carpark. It might not seem like much, but the average person burns 40 calories per 1,000 steps, so depending on how far away you park, it’s possible to burn a significant number of calories with this daily habit.

Take it into your personal life too, when you’re out shopping or going for dinner, and your pedometer will show a difference.

  1. Use the stairs

Opportunities for extra steps don’t end at the office door. If you work in a multi-story building, choose the stairs over the lift.

Research shows climbing 8 flights of stairs a day reduces the risk of early mortality by 33 percent, so the burn in your quads is a small price to pay.

  1. It’s always your round

Don’t put your order in the next tea round, instead opt to make your own drink. This will give you the opportunity to walk to and from the kitchen, breaking up long periods of sitting. Using a smaller glass for water means you’ll be heading to the kitchen to refill more often, too.

It doesn’t matter that it’s only a 30-second activity, it’s still enough to interrupt the long periods of sedentary behaviour that prove so bad for our health.

  1. Don’t shoot the messenger

Most of us are in the habit of emailing and instant messaging colleagues sitting just the other side of the office.

However, did you know something as simple as moving around the office to talk to colleagues lowers your risk of being overweight?

So, go and spread your messages as far and wide as you can and look at each communication as an opportunity to break sedentary behaviour by going and speaking to that someone in person.

  1. Active desks

Standing desks are ideal for those who want to break sedentary habits but often find it hard to spend time away from their desks on a daily basis, due to heavy workloads and urgent deadlines.

Active desks are adjustable, so you can stand while you work and disrupt long sessions of sitting. Standing for your afternoon shift has been shown to burn over 1,000 more calories than sitting, over the course of a week. And that’s not the only benefit.

A study has shown that standing helps with brain function, too, making our reactions and processing ability quicker than when performing the same activities sitting down.

  1. Walk through your ideas

Promote more active behaviour among colleagues by organising walking meetings, which are perfect for early brainstorming sessions and floating creative ideas.

Walking not only offers physical health benefits but has been found to enhance and speed up creative thinking too. So, gather a small group, plan a walking route and take your meeting outdoors.

  1. Pace yourself

The average adult in England spends around 9.5 hours a day sedentary, with desk jobs and long meetings largely to blame. We seem to think we need to be seated to concentrate when we’ve already seen walking meetings can promote faster, clearer thinking.

For example; why not try to walk around during phone calls in the office to colleagues or clients? A 30-minute phone call could see you accruing 3,000 steps and if you have a phone meeting every day this could add 15,000 weekly steps to your routine, without you even noticing!

Adding these simple tips regularly to your routine could significantly reverse the negative effects of sedentary behaviour. So, turn these conscious healthy choices into a habit to help you stay happy and healthy every day.
By Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Charity Director and Primary Care Medical Director, Nuffield Health

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