How to get more movement in your workday (without even thinking about it)

Calibro Workspace Office Design Fitout How to get more Movement into your Workday Wellbeing

Most of our jobs marry us to a desk for eight hours a day. Where machines do most of the heavy lifting and where we can do almost anything without moving. Unfortunately that has caused a disconnect with our bodies, so much so that we only notice our body when something goes wrong.  According to BMC Public Health office workers may be at an increased risk of poor mental health since they spend up to 82% of their workday sitting. A further study by Mental Health UK found that 46% of people attributed their work stress and feelings of burnout to poor physical health which in turn led to 1 in 5 people taking time off work.

The average person working a desk job will get around 5,000 steps per day. That’s the equivalent of around 2 miles – a distance you could walk in 30 minutes. Yet, it’s all the majority of us manage to do in 16 waking hours. And that has an impact  — both physically and mentally. We often find ourselves drowsy, fatigued and more prone to injury despite constantly rushing about and being busier than ever. Thing is, a lot of our ‘busyness’ is from behind a screen, or two screens, or three screens. The only real time we get up is to go to the bathroom or collect things from the printer.

What if we could introduce some simple movement habits into our workdays — habits that would eventually become muscle memory, that would have such a great impact on our focus, mood and productivity, while sending those feelings of burnout into almost complete remission?

Finding ways and opportunities to interrupt a sedentary lifestyle with physical activity, and creating daily habits that stick, is not only possible, but could be essential to keep you at your best in the office. Let’s take a look at some at work exercises. You can experiment with those that most appeal to you.

How to get on your feet at work without even thinking about it

1.   Get up, Stand up

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Sitting for prolonged periods is linked with symptoms of visual impairment, obesity, cardiovascular disease not to mention the sheer increase of worker discomfort over the course of the workday. Lower back pain anyone? And where there’s discomfort, there’s toppling productivity. Our bodies are made to move. Standing and moving are inherent biological triggers that play a key role in a healthy lifestyle. A simple way to get off the seat and on your feet is to use a standing desk, or inexpensive desktop converter, to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

Standing periodically can improve posture, circulation, boost energy and focus levels, and reduce the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. You can also simply get up and stretch or move on the spot more often. Though, in many cases it’s difficult to remember doing some office exercise when you’re in deep work. A way to do it without thinking is to use the Pomodoro method. Basically, this method uses an alarm to break up working periods — usually 25 minutes on with a 5 minute break in between. Repeat 3 or 4 times before eventually taking a longer 30-40 minute break.

It’s used by many high performers as a way to remind them to exercise at work, move around, keep their mind engaged, before getting back into work. It’s possibly the easiest, most effective reminder to add more movement into your workday.

2. Walk and talk

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Nobody really wants to spend their only lunch break doing laps around the office to make up a step goal. There are other ways to get that buzz on your wrist letting you know you’re making good progress. Walking meetings are an excellent way to provide opportunities for movement. Not only will the exercise get your heart pumping, but the fresh air will help your mental clarity and idea formation fostering more creativity and better conversation. Plus, a change of scenery from the conference room is always nice.

We mentioned before that machines do most of our heavy lifting throughout the workday. We’re often bogged down in excel sheets and calendars and emails. Hundreds of emails. But, where permitted, it can be good to take some slack off the computer and deliver any messages in person. Walking to a colleagues desk to deliver a message may seem outdated considering you can fling it off in an email, but the journey there and back gives your body and mind a chance to reset. And who knows, a spontaneous conversation may even spark some new thoughts and ideas.

3. Desk exercises

Yes, you may run the risk of looking a little odd but, with some creativity, you can improve your mental health and productivity with desk exercise. You can activate core muscle groups without drawing too much attention to yourself. Leg raises, seat twists, neck and shoulder rolls — chair squats and desk push-ups if you’re confident enough — while seated can get your blood flowing and muscles engaged without leaving your workspace. Doing even a few of these desk workouts will improve metabolism, clarity, mood and resilience.

For longer sedentary periods having an ergonomically optimised workspace can promote comfort and prevent pain. What that means is:

  • Make sure your chair is comfortable with adequate back support
  • Check the height of your computer screen and keyboard to correct any hunching or overstretching while working
  • Invest in wrist or foot support

4. Travel for refreshments

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This one is perhaps glaring but it’s easily one of the most effective ways of exercising at work. Regular breaks to fill up your water bottle or grab a cuppa can get you out of your mind and into your body. Even though these trips are fleeting, they can improve concentration and overall health and have the added benefit of creating recurring movement in the form of bathroom breaks.

Top tip: if you have one of those big litre, or two litre, water bottles, try swapping it out for a glass. Then you’re forced to make the short pilgrimage to the kitchen for a refill more often.

*By the way, all of these tips can crossover whether you work in the office or at home. Moving on.

5. Use the stairs when you can

Granted this one takes a bit more intent but you can turn the staircase into a fitness opportunity. Challenge yourself to a staircase workout during a break, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or use the stairs at home to get in a quick burst of cardio. Busy days can take it out of you, and it seems like every day at work can be hectic, but those few minutes up and down the stairs can aid focus, boost productivity and contribute to your overall health and wellbeing, more than you think. Just like food nourishes the brain and body, so does movement.

6. Make movement a culture thing

Movement challenges and wellness programs can be good motivators to encourage employees to be consistently active. It doesn’t even need to trickle from the top down. You can rope your colleagues into moving more based on consistency and friendly competition, rather than ability. Exercises at work don’t need to be based on reps, or minutes done, or weight lost. Instead turn the collective attention to getting away from the desk together for physical activity, not individual outcomes.

It could be a step challenge, plank challenge, staircase challenge, a weekly fitness bingo — anything to create a sense of collective confidence around movement. Try challenging co-workers to see who can maintain the longest streak of taking an exercise break each day. That will look different for everyone — some might do push-ups, others might stretch. The idea is to promote regular movement, not compare fitness levels.

Allow the dreaded ‘D’ word into your life: Discipline

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Incorporating more movement into your day doesn’t have to be a drag. Find what works best for you and make it a non-negotiable that you do it each day. Schedule it into your calendar to validate it in your mind. Forming new habits is just about one of the most difficult things to accomplish but don’t let that stop you from getting started. Begin small. Create mini realistic goals to meet and acknowledge the completion of your daily goals with rewards and praise. The key is to start with repetition, not perfection.

Whatever blend of movements you decide to try, remember that:

  • You don’t have to commit forever: if your first attempts feel unsustainable (or boring) try something else.
  • Pair your new activity with something you’re already doing: find a habit you are already practising — your normal coffee break, a weekly meeting — and work one of the above movement opportunities into it.
  • Find the fun: moving more doesn’t mean a 30 minute stint on the treadmill while your lungs scream for help. Stick to the things you genuinely enjoy that make you feel good. It’ll feel less of a chore that way.

When we move our body, energy flows through it, activates it, and improves functionality of all key components we need to operate a healthy fulfilled life — both mentally and physically. It’s become very easy over the last few years to retreat into a sedentary routine during the workday. Incorporating a few of the small movement practices discussed, can make such a big difference.

Movement throughout the workday is one key element to improving workplace wellbeing, here are 15 more. You can also get more insights on enhancing all aspects of workplace wellbeing from our session with our Inspire partnership. A number of professionals joined us from various sectors including tech, property, legal, financial research and industrial, to hear a panel of experts discuss the topic of employee wellbeing.


Images 2-5 are from Office Snapshots


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