The benefit of regular exercise on the body is well known. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve and sustain mental health. Engaging in regular exercise relieves stress, improves memory and attention, spurs creativity, betters sleep, and most importantly, boosts overall mood. When you exercise, you are actively promoting your best self: mind and body.
However, it's much easier to talk about exercising, than to actually get up and do it.
In a survey commissioned by Ergotron, a global manufacturer of the sit-stand desk, it was found that, on average, Americans are sitting approximately 13 hours a day and sleeping nearly 8 hours a night. This results in Americans living a sedentary lifestyle for approximately 21 hours a day. These are shocking and frightening statistics.
The workplace is largely at fault for increasing trends in sedentary lifestyles. Most employees sit for almost the entire 9am-to-5pm workday, if not longer. While you may not control what kind of environment you work in, you do control your actions, and how often you choose to get up and get active.
Here are seven workplace exercises to incorporate into your daily routine.
Workout Commutes. Commit to a mode of transportation that requires physical exertion. If you have to drive to work, then park a few blocks away and walk the rest of the way in. You only have so much time in the day to exercise, so make sure you are using it wisely to gain a healthy benefit.
Stair Errands. A few stairs can quickly increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping. Instead of mindlessly stepping into the elevator, commit to conquering a few flights of stairs each day. This quick burst of exercise can heighten arousal to increase both attention and creativity. A few stairs may be the extra push you need to successfully tackle a new project.
Walk-2-Talk. Don’t just press send! Instead, roll back your chair and stroll over to your colleague’s desk. Not only will you gain a few steps to reactivate your metabolism and increase blood flow, face to face contact also succeeds in strengthening your relationship with coworkers. Additionally, in person conversation can be very productive in solving problems quick with reduced ambiguity.
Active Breaks. Whether it’s a walk to the restroom, printer, or a neighboring cubicle, it is important to get up and move every hour. Sitting for as little as ten minutes can greatly impede blood circulation, which if prolonged, can increase varicose veins and blood clots. So, get up, stretch a bit, and move around.
Stand-Up Meetings. Instead of gathering around a conference table, reschedule team meetings in a break room where people can stand and mingle. This provides a good stretch and a break from routine, which can often spark new ideas and discussion.
Happy Feet. Engage in quick leg exercises in the privacy beneath your desk. Activate your leg muscles by making small circles with your ankles. This builds strength and facilitates blood flow. Take it one-step further by practicing the foot ABC’s, making each letter come to life in fluid ankle pumps.
Bathroom Jumping Jacks. Re-vamp your bathroom breaks with a few healthy jumping jacks. This fun, childhood exercise not only kicks your cardiovascular system into gear, but can also heighten your mood. When you jump and move your arms and legs, your brain releases serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, and adrenalin, which together make you feel happier and less stressed.
Armed with the quick and simple workplace exercises above, long hours at work can no longer be your excuse for inactivity. The benefits of exercise on physical and mental health are numerous, and even short bouts of physical exertion can achieve healthy gains. Commit to these exercises as the first step in achieving better health.
Take a post-it note and write ‘get active.’ Stick this note to the top of your computer screen or somewhere clearly visible to you during your workday. This can serve as a constant reminder to engage in workplace exercise.
Switch it up! Suggest to your colleague that the next meeting be outside, on a walk, or standing in the break room. Let a teammate know that you're happy to walk over and chat about a project in person rather than email. These little changes practiced frequently can create lasting healthy workplace habits.
To learn more on this topic, check out these reads: