Incorporating physical activity into your workday can reduce some of the health problems elevated by a sedentary lifestyle. One study shows that doing just 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week – be it going to the gym, walking to work, or taking active breaks – can prevent 1 in 12 deaths globally.
Stay active throughout the workday to counter the damage sitting does to your body. Many office workers spend over two-thirds of their working day sitting, and they accumulate about 10.5 hours sitting per working day. However, growing research associates too much sitting with health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
Staying active at work can also reduce stress in the workplace. Stress causes impaired mental well-being, depressive symptoms, and high blood pressure – all of which can lead to absenteeism from work. But finding opportunities to be active at the workplace can be a daunting task, especially between a hectic schedule that requires you to sit for most of the day. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips that can help you incorporate movement into your daily routine, even with a desk job.
1. Cycle or Walk to The Office
Depending on your office location and how far you work from home, you can switch how you get to and from the office. Once in a while, leave the car at home and cycle or walk to the office instead.
Active commuting to work is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes and a lower risk of cancer. Both cycling and walking to work are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, people who cycle or walk to work have a lower body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage in midlife when compared to those who commute to work by car.
Other benefits of active commute to work, by foot or by bike, include improved well-being, more concentration, and less stress.
A recent survey shows that most people use their cars to get to work instead of actively commuting. Because they worry about the extra time that walking or cycling will take. But when asked to estimate how long it would take to cycle or walk to a common location, most participants were incorrect and overestimated.
If you’re inactive and want to shed a few pounds, a morning walk to work could be just the tonic you need. Especially if you don't have the time or motivation to visit a gym regularly.
2. Stand Regularly
Do you know that something as simple as standing up now and then while in the office could reduce the health risks linked to sitting for extended periods?
According to a report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2015, office workers should stand for at least 2 hours during their workday to break up prolonged sitting. This reduces sedentary behavior and time spent sitting at work. Experts believe that adding standing and walking behaviors into your work routine is more doable than targeted exercise.
You can incorporate the following standing behaviors in your workday:
- Stand for 2 – 4 hours during office hours, especially if you spend all day on your desk.
- Use a standing desk to switch between sitting and standing regularly.
- Avoid standing still for an extended period. Because static standing is just as harmful as too much sitting.
- Change your posture regularly to avoid musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
Today, more businesses are adopting the use of standing desks, especially with growing evidence on their benefits. The University of Iowa found that workers who have sit-stand desks spend 60 minutes per day standing, and they burned 87 more calories than their sitting counterparts.
Other benefits of standing desks include neurocognitive benefits. For instance, learners who continuously used standing desks experienced improved working memory capabilities, and they performed better in executive functions.
3. Take Active Breaks
Instead of eating lunch at the office while browsing through your smartphone and answering emails, take a break, and do something physically active. Get out of the office, take a walk during the lunch break. You will come back feeling refreshed, revived, and your concentration will be better for the rest of the day.
Whether you choose to take a walk, cycle, do some exercises at your desk or go to the gym for an hour, doing any type of exercise breaks up your day and it improves your motivation for the remaining hours in the office.
One study found that being physically active for at least one hour a day can prevent the increased risk of death related to sitting for more than 8 hours a day. People who spend 8 hours a day seated but are physically active are at a lower risk of premature death than those who sit for fewer hours but are inactive.
Office workers who find time to engage in physical activity are less likely to develop mental health problems, such as depression and burnout compared to physically inactive individuals.
Regardless of how you choose to stay active during your work hours, it’s crucial to remember that any movement at all, if only for 10 minutes, is better than staying still.
Start small and take a 10-minute walk each day and try to take at least three 10-minutes walks each day. Additionally, you can integrate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into your workday.
4. Take the Stairs
Adding physical activity into your workday doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Making a simple switch, such as using the stairs instead of the elevator can help you stay active at work. Using the stairs each day can make a difference, and it can help you burn a few extra calories as well as get your heart pumping, improving your blood circulation.
This could be quite useful, especially if your office is on a higher floor in a tall building. However, if walking the entire way is too much for you, take the elevator for part of the way and then walk whatever distance you’re comfortable with.
5. Move More and Stretch Regularly
Take a couple of minutes to stretch at your desk or even better, away from it. Stand every 30 minutes to stretch out your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of sitting. Not only does stretching reduce back and neck pain, but it also makes you more energized.
Moving around also plays a crucial role in helping you stay active at your office. When in the depths of a taxing project, it’s easy to get caught up in your work for many hours with no movement.
Research shows that for every extra hour of sitting for over 5 hours, the waist size increases by 2 centimeters, and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by 0.2%.
But the good news is; when you’re sitting down, you need not stay still; fidgeting in your seat can make a tremendous difference. A study by the University of Leeds in the UK found that slight movements, including those involved in fidgeting, could counter the adverse effects of too much sitting.
So, you can stay active in the office by setting an alarm to remind you to take quick activity breaks.
There are many ideas on how to stay active at work, and not every idea will suit you and your routine. However, the best option is to take a step back, analyze your habits, and identify where you can incorporate physical activity. Add physical activity into your work routine, and soon you’ll reap the benefits.
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