Since the latter half of the twentieth century, our lives have changed so dramatically. Technology and the modern world has resulted in more and more of us sitting as part of our jobs, with office workers being sedentary for around 75% of their working day.
A person who has a sedentary lifestyle is defined as being someone who does not exercise regularly, with the WHO estimating that this applies to around 60-85% of the world’s population and it is currently the fourth leading risk factor for global mobility. In recent years, more and more scientific studies are examining the impact of this increased sedentary lifestyle on our long term health; concluding that sitting is fundamentally a silent killer. When we are sitting still, electrical activity in our major muscle groups is shut down. The levels of fat- destroying enzymes drop, and we become increasingly insulin resistant. While our metabolism slows, our blood glucose and blood pressure increase. Research has shown that people who sit down a lot at work are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, cancer or diabetes, it is a major cause of obesity and it can significantly increase the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses and premature death. Furthermore, evidence has shown that even if you exercise for the recommended 30 minutes per day, this may not be enough to beat the disadvantages of working in a sedentary job.
Making small changes to our everyday routine can have a big impact, and can make a significant contribution to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. There is so much that we can do to promote increased activity in our lives, and implementing even the tiniest of steps can aid in the development of healthier behaviors and improved health outcomes.
Stand wherever possible
Height adjustable desks are becoming increasingly popular and there is evidence to suggest that standing up when working can reduce tiredness and is associated with higher levels of productivity. It this is not possible in your place of work, try to stand at least every twenty to thirty minutes for a short amount of time. Take a few minutes just to walk around the office, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, or just pace up and down whilst you are on the phone.
Taking regular breaks is essential for productivity and evidence has shown that multiple shorter breaks can be more effective than one long one. Analyze your own body rhythm and consider what time of day breaks are likely to be the most beneficial for you.
It is recommended that we take 10,000 steps per day, but the vast majority of us are not reaching this target. Try to walk as much as possible throughout the day. Lunchtime is a great time to go outside and take a walk around the area. Not only will this help you to beat the afternoon slump, but it can also lower levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and boost levels of good cholesterol. Also, speak with your manager regarding the benefits of implementing walking meetings. Boosting your circulation, providing a creative way of working and having a positive effect on communication and morale, walking meetings are a great way to add exercise to your daily routine and many leaders and successful CEOs swear by them.
Speak face to face
Rather than just sending off an email, walk to a colleague’s office or desk and chat with them face to face. Not only will it allow you to move and take a break from the desk, but it can also help to promote stronger relationships between colleagues and prevent misunderstandings.
Take the Stairs
Skip the elevator and take the stairs whenever possible for a quick cardio workout that will get your heart going. For some of us, just taking the stairs can have a huge impact on the amount of exercise we get per day.
Track your fitness
We are often guilty of overestimating how much activity we do in a day, and wearing a fitness and activity tracker is a great way to acknowledge exactly what you are doing. It can also serve to motivate you further, as it provides a clear target to reach. Wearing a pedometer, fitness tracker or just having an app on your phone that keeps track of your movement can provide a better idea of how far off you are and how you can improve.
Move and Stretch
There are so many different ways that we can incorporate simple exercises into our everyday routine. Set a reminder on your phone to limit the time you spend starting still, and regularly get up and move. Take some time to stretch out your muscles and change up your posture or just do light and gentle exercises whilst you are working.
Food and Drink
It is also important to consider the food and drink that you are consuming throughout the working day. Making small changes to our diet is also associated with improved productivity and you must keep your mind and body fuelled for the tasks ahead. Keeping away from sugar or caffeine will help to prevent the slump and always drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and healthy.
Standing up on the bus or train, walking to work, getting off the stop earlier, or even do gentle exercises during your commute can ensure that you start the day the right way. Even when you are sat at home watching TV, exercise during the ad breaks and include more movement in your everyday life.
Change the System
When you consider that such changes can improve productivity, reduce absenteeism and boost overall mental, promoting a movement mindset is ultimately beneficial for everyone. For example, height-adjustable desks would enable workers to choose between sitting and standing, introducing walking meetings could be beneficial or organizing a company team or sport could improve team morale. Consider what changes can be made on an organizational level to make the most impact.