As jobs become more and more sedentary, we are putting ourselves at risk by not moving more. Research suggests that sitting for more than eight hours a day increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by up to 20%.
But when you’re at the office for long hours, fitting exercise in can be tough. And those few hours you spend at the gym aren’t really enough – you need to move more, consistently, throughout the day.
Dr John Medina, author of Brain Rules, recommends we get more creative about encouraging workplace movement because of the immediate and long-term benefits for the brain. Movement produces BDNF – brain derived neurotropic factor ‒ which acts like fertiliser for your brain! Want to think faster? Move your feet faster!
Here are some ways to sneak more intentional movement into your day.
1. Commute better
Park further away, or if you use public transport, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way. If you park in a multilevel car par, climb the stairs to a higher level or walk up the ramp instead of using the lift. Counting steps may help … there’s a notable difference to my energy levels at the end of the day when I’ve walked 12 000 versus 3 000 steps!
2. Take the stairs
Yes, it seems obvious, but people still take the lift to go up one or two floors. Stairs are great for your legs and glute muscles, and they get your cardiovascular system moving, and sometimes, you even get to your destination before the lift would have. Since living in London I make a concerted effort to take the steps instead of the underground escalators. I must say that it’s helped to keep my glutes in shape!
3. Talk to your colleagues face-to-face
In other words, get up and go to their office instead of picking up the phone, or sending an email or text.
Leadership workplace tip: Can you role model this behaviour and make an effort to walk and speak to colleagues yourself? Create a walkie-talkie culture where walking and talking, and stand-up meetings are the norm.
4. Stand more
You don’t have to invest in a standing desk for this – some physiotherapists point out that it can be just as bad to stand in one position typing all day, as it is to sit. But if you’re on the phone, for example, or on a conference call, it’s a good idea to stand or walk around. Or brainstorm at a whiteboard instead of using a piece of paper. Look for opportunities to stand instead of sit.
I travel a lot, sometimes spending four nights a week in different hotels. To combat the sitting I need to do while commuting long distances I often use the hotel room ironing board as a makeshift standing desk.
You can also get creative. On-site gyms at the office might help, but they are costly and not always well used. There are cheaper, more creative ways to get people standing and moving more using tools such as resistance bands, rebounders, office desk treadmills, table tennis (if you have the place) or something as simple as hula hoops … help to make movement fun.
5. Drink more water
Not only is this much healthier than chugging down another calorie-laden designer coffee, if you drink more water, you’ll be getting up more often to go to the bathroom.
Leadership workplace tip: Can you insert water coolers at every coffee pause area and/or provide funky water drinking bottles (branded perhaps with your vision statement) that could nudge more positive hydration habits for employees?
6. Move your mind
You won’t do any of these strategies unless you change your mindset. You don’t need to make major changes, just small tweaks to your day to get active. A lot of small steps can have a huge impact, but you need to wrap your head around the idea first.
Motion shifts more than just your metabolism – it can and will shift your mind state and your cognitive function too, and that means happier, healthier, more productive workdays all round!