Many of us spend one third of our lives in the workplace. In this article we will look at ten ways how to get more exercise in the office and to prevent health issues that may arise with a desk job.
It’s a great idea to get your colleagues to join in for that extra motivation and positive peer pressure. Even better when the management decides to set an employee’s health as a priority, support different workplace health initiatives and aim to create a positive work environment. However, there are many things you can do on your own to get more exercise at your workplace.
Things to do by yourself
1. Take a short walk during your lunch break
Instead of spending the lunch break chatting in the coffee room use part of the time to take a stroll outside. Even 5-10 minutes and one kilometre makes a difference. Added bonus is that a change in surroundings usually helps to clear the head as well.
2. Move the trash can to the other side of the office
Is the paper basket under your table? Move it to the other side of the room. It’s a small thing to do, but even these few steps you need to throw something away add up and standing up helps to improve your circulation.
3. Boot the car and the elevator
Leave your car and walk or bike to the office at least once a week. Even public transport gives you extra steps and helps reach the office with a clear head.
During the day take stairs instead of an elevator. Starting with one day you may soon discover that you are ready to increase the number and your health will thank you for it. The initiative can be a lot more effective when colleagues decide to join in for the car and elevator free day.
United effort, get your colleagues involved
4. Do a group sport activity together
If your company doesn’t have a sports day, take initiative and organize one.
Ask around and find a group of colleagues interested to join in for an after work baseball, badminton or volleyball. Even hiking, running or skating can be more fun when done with companions. You might be pleasantly surprised how many people have a “secret” sport that they like. Aim for regularity, once or twice a week on a specific day, and it will soon become a habit. Regularity and companionship can be a great motivator to help you stick to a change.
5. Healthier eating
Agree with a person next to you (and with the one across the table) on an ingredient of the week. This gives you an option to swap recipes and become more mindful about your eating habits. If a whole week seems too much stipulate on a healthy afternoon snack instead of a candy-bar. Apples, carrots or almonds make a nice snack but make sure you actually eat them too. Read more how to eat for a success at the workplace.
An example from one wellness concourse company’s HR initiative. They decided to organize theme-years, focusing on a specific health issue and information about healthier alternative each year.
The first year focused on lowering the cholesterol level, the second to lessen the amount of gluten in their meals and the third to incorporate Paleo-foods in their daily menu.
Results? The first year one employee lost 10 kg-s, the second year employees discovered new options such as buckwheat flower and got into a habit of selecting healthier breads. During the third year people leaned to use and love hummus and guacamole, both seen in the office to this day.
Ideas to propose to the management
7. Discourage smoking
In a workplace environment where there are no smoking rooms or at least they are not comfortable, people tend to smoke a lot less or even give up smoking all together. Positive and healthy work environment can encourage healthier ways for people to take a break or socialize.
8. More water, less coffee
Many people swear by the cup of coffee in the morning, but don’t forget to follow it up by a glass of water. Staying hydrated is essential to your health and the ability to concentrate. Dehydration impairs your cognitive abilities. Research by Cian et al 2000 showed that even healthy, youngsters’ mental and physical abilities as well as mood was compromised by dehydration.
Drink at least two liters of water per day. You may even want to consider skipping coffee in the afternoon and have water instead.
If the tap water in the office doesn’t taste good (or is not comfortably accessible) having water-coolers placed in handy locations will encourage water consumption and support the occupational health and general well being.
9. Daily stretching and posters with exercises
Some office collectives have a designated time for all employees to gather to a conference room for a 15-minute stretching break. This works as a daily reminder and the instructed techniques can be used through the day.
If an organized exercise time is too big of a step to start with alternative is to place posters with different exercises to the work environment. They encourage and a remind people in the office to take an occasional stretching breaks. Simple stretches should be done multiple times over the day helps to compensate for long seated hours. You don’t even need to change clothes to do them.
10. Free vaccination against seasonal flue, hepatitis and tick-borne encephalitis
While a lot of our health is in our own hands, there are other things that can be hard to predict. When the workplace offers free vaccinations, it functions as a reminder to get a head start on preventative measures. There are a few things more disruptive to an efficient workplace than having people unable to work due to illness.
How to stay motivated on working towards the healthy and positive workplace environment? Some people thrive on a routine while others need to mix things up to stay interested. Don’t be afraid to try different things and find out what works for you. Supportive management and enthusiastic colleagues goes a long way towards creating a healthy work environment. However, your own consistency and patience is what makes the real difference on preventing and relieving health issues from an office work.