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Move more for better wellbeing

Move More for Better Wellbeing: Staying Active at Work

Figures from Public Health England suggest we are 20% less active than we were in the 1960s. Technological advances at home and at work have made our lives easier but they have also made us less active. More of us do desk jobs than ever before, whether from an office or from home. That means we have to make a conscious choice to be more active. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 13th-19th May, and this year’s theme is “Moving more for our mental health.” With that in mind, here are some tips for staying active at work.

The problem of sedentary lifestyles

Do you drive to work, sit at a desk for most of the day, drive home, then sit in front of the TV in the evening? If that sounds like your average day, you’re probably not getting
enough physical activity to stay well.

The Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity for guidelines for adults recommends that each week, we should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling); or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (such as running). On top of that, it’s recommended that we do activities on at least two days per week to develop or maintain strength in our major muscle groups including resistance exercises, heavy gardening, or carrying heavy shopping.

There are some seriously negative impacts of not being active enough. Research has linked sitting down for long periods of time to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of heart disease, and cancer. It also impacts on your mental health; inactivity is linked to low mood, increased stress, and poor sleep.

It’s well-known that physical activity is beneficial for mental wellbeing. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that for treating depression, the positive effects of walking, jogging, yoga, and strength training were comparable to the benefits gained from taking antidepressant medication (SSRIs).

It can be challenging to fit physical activity into an already busy life, but staying active at work could help reduce health risks and improve your wellbeing.

Tips for staying active at work

Staying active at work is all about having a ‘movement mindset.’ This means fitting in short bouts of activity during the working day. You will be surprised at how 10 minutes here and there can make a difference. Try these to fit more movement into your working day:

If you get public transport to work, could you get off a stop early? Every little bit of activity helps.

      Take the stairs, if possible.

      Park further away from the building entrance.

      Set an alarm to remind you to take a quick activity break once per hour. If you have a smart watch if might remind you to be move regularly. Have a stretch at your desk or go and make a cuppa or refill your water bottle.

   Instead of eating lunch at your desk, take an active lunch break. Get a few colleagues together and go for a brisk lunchtime walk, even if it’s for 10 minutes. You’ll come back to your desk feeling refreshed, energised, and more able to concentrate.

   Make use of any wellbeing perks your employer subsidises such as discounted gym memberships. If there’s nothing like this on offer in your workplace, why not set up your own staff walking or running group? There’s motivation (and safety) in numbers.

If you work remotely

What about staying active at work when you work from home? Less time commuting and more flexibility means more opportunities to exercise, in theory. However, a study
carried out by researchers at Stanford University found that people working from home spent 9.2 hours per day sitting down compared to people who couldn’t work from home, who spent 7.3 hours sitting. So how can people working remotely stay active? Again, it’s all about fitting movement into your day whenever you can. Do squats while waiting for the kettle to boil. Do the school run on foot. Walk to the shops for your groceries instead of taking the car. Have an active lunch break; try going for a walk or hitting the gym. It will really help you beat the afternoon slump.

Being active can feel like just something else you have to add to your to-do list, but it’s do-able if you remember that it’s not just about getting ‘formal’ exercise. It’s about moving your body whenever you can because that’s what it’s designed for.