To achieve good health, experts often recommended walking at least 10,000 steps a day. For those who work in sedentary office jobs, however, this can sometimes seem like a daunting challenge.
A growing body of research shows us just how important it is to combat inactivity. Long periods of sitting are said to lead to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. The World Health Organisation even listed inactivity as the fourth biggest risk factor for global adult mortality.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are plenty of ways you can be more active in the workplace. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Walk or ride at least part of the way to work
If you can bike or walk (or even run) to work, this can be an excellent way to fit more activity into your day – and you’ll arrive feeling fresh and energised, with a clear mind.
Of course, not everyone lives close enough for this to be a realistic option, but you can still find ways to make at least part of your trip more active. Get the train part of the way and ride the rest, get off the tram a few stops early and walk, or park your car a kilometre or two away. Try a few different things and see what works for you.
2. Volunteer for the coffee run
Go out and get your coffee, tea or smoothie instead of letting someone else pick one up for you. Even better, you could make it a challenge to try a new place each day for a week, instead of always going for the closest option. Taking a stroll with some colleagues is a quick and easy way to relax, socialise and get in some more physical activity.
3. Have standing or walking meetings
We all have those meetings that stretch on for an hour, but could really be accomplished in 15 minutes. Try organising a standing meeting – research shows this can be a good way to increase efficiency, making sure things don’t drag on unnecessarily, as well as getting you out of your chair.
For smaller groups or one-on-ones, a walking meeting can be a great way to get things done while getting in a little physical activity. The change of pace and scenery can also help reduce tensions and encourage more creativity and free-flowing conversation.
“Tracking your activity can be an excellent way to motivate yourself and keep you reminded of your goals.”
4. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
Studies have shown that when you wear comfortable clothes and shoes to work you are more likely to be more active. It makes perfect sense – taking the stairs looks a lot less appealing when you’re in towering high heels or a stiff suit.
Even if your work dress code requires you to wear more formal clothes, chances are there are ways you can make your clothing more comfortable – whether it’s investing in a great pair of flats, choosing a chunkier heel that’s easier to walk in, or finding a suit made from a more breathable and movable fabric.
5. Track your steps
It’s a lot easier to be active when you can keep track of how much you’re really moving. Yes, there’s a reason everyone is wearing activity trackers like Fitbit! Put one on your wrist and find out how many steps you do in a normal day, then set yourself a goal to improve on that number every day. Tracking your activity can be an excellent way to motivate yourself and keep you reminded of your goals.
6. Try a standing desk
If it’s possible in your office, standing up to work can be a great choice. Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories than sitting – and it can be great for your back and posture.
“Stand up every 30 minutes to stretch your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of sitting.”
7. Walk instead of calling or emailing
Use every opportunity you have to get up from your desk. Pretend it’s the ‘90s – instead of emailing or instant-messaging your colleague across the room, walk over to their desk and have a chat with them face to face. The steps add up, and it gives you the extra benefit of having some social interaction.
Take the time to stretch at your desk (or better yet, away from it.) Olympic sports physiotherapist Mark Alexander suggests standing up every 30 minutes to stretch out your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of siting. This will help reduce back and neck pain as well as making your feel more energised.
9. Get moving at lunch time
First, it’s important to take your lunchbreak – studies show that most Australians don’t. Having a break during the day is beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing, and it’s also a good opportunity to get active. Instead of eating at your desk or sitting down in the kitchen area for your whole lunchbreak, make a point to get up and move for at least part of your allotted time. Go outside for a walk and enjoy the change of scenery.
To get the blood pumping even more, you could even jog up and down the stairs, or sneak off for a quick nearby gym session or a circuit in the park.
“Get your co-workers involved and make it a challenge to be more active together.”
10. Take the stairs
We all know we should take the stairs instead of the lift, but how often do we actually do it? The trick is making it a habit, so you stop thinking about it as a choice you have to make every time. Start by aiming to take the stairs once a day, then work up until it’s automatic.
11. Start an office fitness challenge
Get your co-workers involved and make it a challenge to be more active together. It’s always easier to make healthy choices when you’re doing it as a group and you have that support network there motivating and encouraging you.
There are plenty of ways you can make exercise fun and social – maybe you can start a friendly competition to track your steps and see who can walk the most in a day, or you could organise group walks at lunchtime, or make a rule that every hour on the hour you all stand up and do ten squats.
12. Take breaks to move
Put some time in your calendar and set an alarm to remind you to take a break – then get up and go for a short walk around the building, or up and down the stairs. You don’t have to go for long – just make sure you take a 5-10 minute break a couple of times throughout the day. Not only will it get you moving, it will help clear your head, so you go back to work feeling a bit more refreshed. Get a friend to come along and you can combine activity with social interaction that will give you another wellbeing boost.
13. Turn waiting time into moving time
Waiting for the photocopier, or the microwave, or for those pesky co-workers to vacate the meeting room you’ve booked? Take a little stroll, or even do some small exercises like calf-raises, squats or lunges (and if you’ve started a group fitness challenge, no one will think you’re strange for doing it!)
Medibank offers a range of Corporate Health Covers at discounted rates. Find out if you are eligible here or call 131 680 to discuss with our customer service team.
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