We all know that exercise is good for us, and most are aware that it benefits not just our physical health but also our emotional wellbeing. So we try and prioritise it, but so often something else ‘more important’ comes up. Have you ever worried that you won’t meet a deadline so you dedicate your free time to your job, putting your physical health at the bottom of your list of priorities? Such a scenario may ring true for some of us – and we know the importance of exercise for a healthy mind and body – yet we continue with the unhealthy cycle of forgoing physical activity to continue working.
Given that we so easily put off exercising, perhaps we should be asking ourselves how important it really is. Today, more than ever before, we are sitting for long periods of time, usually in a hunched position working on our smartphones or computers. This curved shape we are forcing our spine to remain in for long periods is putting pressure on it, and if we continue to sit like this, it will lead to eventual wear and tear of not only our spinal discs, but also ligaments and muscles.
Our bodies are not built for a sedentary lifestyle
Another unfortunate outcome from sitting like this is that it shrinks our chest cavity while we sit, giving our lungs less room to expand. Our bodies are simply not built for such a sedentary lifestyle. Quite the opposite in fact, our bodies crave activity and were built to move.
Our blood depends on movement for circulation and our nerve cells benefit from movement. Today’s sedentary lifestyle is becoming a public health issue and is linked to many chronic health conditions. Adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Medical News Today reported that “research suggests only 21% of adults are meeting the physical activity guidelines, while less than 5% perform 30 minutes of physical activity per day.”
We may think the longer we work, the happier we will be, satisfied with our levels of productivity. However, we are actually putting ourselves at an increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Physical inactivity can also lead to increased risk of anxiety or depression and may increase the risk of certain cancers.
How can your workplace benefit from active employees?
Are we really more productive when we sit for long periods? Let’s consider the benefits of physical activity on employees. Physically active employees tend to be more self-confident and energetic, thanks to the endorphins released during exercise. These endorphins will also lead to a positive attitude towards work, therefore creating a less stressed workforce. Their immune systems are generally stronger, meaning they can fight off sickness better. This is a huge benefit to businesses, which are today spending billions on sick days. It is clearly in their interests to have a fit and healthy workforce and encouraging physical activity in the workplace will help to combat absenteeism and presenteeism.
What can you do to promote physical activity at work?
Large organisations have the fantastic option to build in-house gyms with shower facilities, making it easy to get 30 minutes of exercise into the day. Smaller businesses may not have the space or budget for an onsite gym, but they can offer gym memberships at discounted rates, while yoga classes for staff are becoming increasingly popular. And you can read our post on a Physical Activity allowance, here. It’s one of the initiatives we really enjoy implementing.
Standing desks will help to straighten our spines and don’t forget those walking meetings. The movement not only counts towards your daily activity but the exertion will encourage creative thinking, helping to contribute ideas to the meeting that might not have come with all involved sitting around a desk, making the time more creative and productive.
Encourage activity to be built into the daily commute with bike loans or weekly walking challenges. Fitness devices and smartphones log our daily steps, making it quick and easy to organise a fun office challenge, helping us achieve our recommended 10,000 daily steps.
Encourage lunch away from desks and regular screen breaks. While it’s fantastic to offer ways to get your employees moving, educating them on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle (being careful not to worry them) may encourage more movement for the right reasons.
Taking time to think of an effective wellbeing initiative will do wonders for the physical and emotional wellbeing of your workforce and this will have a positive effect on the wellbeing of the company. One tip we are keen to offer when promoting physical activity at work is to gently nudge employees and encourage them. Do not push or force anyone to take part in your new physical health initiatives as it could irritate some people – let schemes grow organically.
And of course, if you’d like help or guidance with physical activity initiatives in your workplace – including talks and classes – get in touch!