Stay fit while working in an office with these easy office exercises

Office sit-ups

Working out in the office doesn’t lower productivity

Some women squeeze in an exercise by using active workstations, which enable them to move more during the workday. But you may wonder: will this type of multitasking make you less productive on the job?

A study in the May issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise says it doesn't appear to. The study authors tested the cognitive performance of 58 workers — 32 young and 26 middle-aged — who were asked to walk for 50 minutes at a time on an active workstation treadmill. The study authors concluded that walking didn't hinder the workers' ability to effectively complete mental tasks, aside from a slight dip in planning skills during the workout. And they were able to log an average of 4,500 more steps per day during their sessions.

The findings are good news if you are interested in sneaking in a little more exercise at the office. And research has shown that you should; less sitting is definitely better for your health. A 2015 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that on average, people spend more than half of their waking hours sitting down. Prolonged sitting raises your risk of chronic diseases — including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer — as well as premature death.

So, stuck at your desk feeling uncomfy and achy? Have a go at our simple exercises - you don’t even need to leave your desk.

Shoulder circles

Help prevent rounded shoulders and relieve tension with some chest-opening shoulder circles.

While seated, rotate your shoulders backward and down, trying to make the biggest circles you can. And breathe. Lovely.

Leg extensions

Great for strengthening the muscles at the front of the thighs (which will come in pretty handy during active labor).

Office sit-ups

Good for toning legs and waking up your glutes (bum, that is). Word of warning: If your chair has wheels, make sure you wedge it - you don’t want it rolling away!

Pelvic tilt

Work your pelvic floor and tummy muscles (which will support your growing baby) and help prevent back and pelvic pain.

Pelvic floor exercises

No-one will know you’re doing these toning exercises and - trust us - it’s worth every little squeeze. Your bladder will thank you!

Try and perform each repetition with the same speed and strength as the first.

A 30-minute brisk walk during your lunch hour will give your heart a workout, release feel-good endorphins, and help you stay fit and strong as your baby. Try swapping your office chair for an exercise ball. Sitting on a ball exercises your core muscles, encouraging better posture, and helping to take the strain of carrying a baby.

Below, let’s look at the top 10 benefits of exercise at work:

 

#1. HELPS TO MANAGE CHRONIC STRESS


Work can be stressful and is likely to be a significant contributor to personal stress. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do; you’re likely to feel significantly stressed over something at one time or another. Acute stress is usually deemed to be positive; it helps to improve focus and concentration. However, chronic stress is detrimental, and when based on excessive, prolonged stress and environmental demands can be challenging to manage. Work-related stress can cause both mental and physical effects. You could be stressed because of heavy workloads, uncomfortable work conditions, or difficulties with colleagues.

You might not even be stressed about work - you might be stressed about something going on at home, or during the commute to and from work, but take that into work with you. So how does exercise help combat stress?

Exercise helps to reduce stress by regulating the release of cortisol. After exercise, the stress hormones drop, and stress and anxiety fade away, leaving you in a more relaxed state for the rest of the day. However, it isn’t just a temporary distraction from our problems; there are longer-term benefits too, which include strengthening our physiological resistance to stress making us more resilient also. It is one of the reasons why doctors and health professionals recommend more physical activity to reduce stress and reactions to stress triggers. Physical activity is useful but it isn’t the only option available, the charity MIND has other excellent tips on how to reduce stress and be mentally healthy at work.

#2. IMPROVED PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY


With exercise comes improved performance and productivity throughout the rest of the day. Many people convince themselves that they’ll go for a run or head to the gym after work, but when it finally gets to home time, they feel so bogged down by everything that’s happened that day all they want to do is curl up and watch some TV. Even if they haven’t had a particularly stressful day, the fact that they have spent the majority of the day sedentary can make them feel unmotivated to go and work out.

Exercising before work and movement during the working day can improve things like focus, and concentration, alertness and energy, decision making, and multi-tasking ability. Both aerobic and resistance training are beneficial. The main factor behind this is that exercise improves cerebral blood flow, that is, improved blood flow to the brain, which improves performance.

One of the benefits of exercise during the workday is increased and sustained energy throughout the day.

#3. REDUCED SEDENTARY TIME


Exercising at work will reduce time spent sedentary. Have you heard the expression sitting is the new smoking? Well, extended sitting time and low physical activity has been associated with poor health and premature death with researchers highlighting the potential risks in the paper, “Too much sitting and all-cause mortality: is there a causal link?”

Just taking regular breaks from sitting is beneficial. Setting a timer and getting up and walking for a short amount of time every 20-30 minutes can be a great way to start enjoying the benefits. Of course, doing sitting exercises can keep you active whilst in your chair.

#4. LESS ABSENTEEISM


The most common causes for long-term absences are stress, acute medical conditions, mental ill-health, musculoskeletal injuries, and back pain. Each year during the old and flu season, there is a dramatic rise in absenteeism rates for workers - not surprisingly. Exercise at work may result in healthier, improved immunity, which in turn will result in fewer sick days in the workplace.

Being active reduces the likelihood of illness; this goes for reductions in both physical and mental health issues. A thorough review of the available evidence into the effects of workplace physical activity promotion on levels of absenteeism and productivity was conducted by Transport for London. With the greatest benefits in reduced absenteeism shown to be achieved by encouraging employees who are currently very inactive to take up between one to two hours of physical activity each week.

Evidence from 10 out of 11 relevant studies suggests that workplace exercise intervention programmes can lead to long-term increases in physical activity and reductions in absenteeism. The studies also suggest that where physical activity is increased by more than one hour per week, absentee days may be reduced in the long term, with the most successful studies reporting reductions of 33 percent to 50 percent.— Physical activity, absenteeism, and productivity - Transport for London

#5. BETTER SLEEP


The majority of people complain about not getting enough quality sleep at night. Of course, this can be due to many things, such as consuming too much caffeine and watching TV too close to bedtime. However, physical activity during the day helps sleep quality at night.

What is quality sleep? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in the United States defines quality sleep as

  • Sleeping while in bed (at least 85 percent of the total time)
  • Falling asleep in less than 30 minutes
  • Waking up no more than once per night; and
  • Being awake for 20 minutes or less after falling asleep

Exercise has long been associated with better sleep, and evidence is mounting on exercise as a non-drug treatment option for sleep disturbance and the association between objectively measured physical activity and sleep.

Exercising more during the working day could well mean getting a better night’s sleep, falling to sleep with ease, and staying asleep. In turn, this can reduce stress, help us to better to listen to our hunger cues, and of course, perform better at work.
 

#6. SAVES TIME


Exercise at work can mean saving time if done wisely - no need to go out for a run or a gym session, because you can take advantage of cumulative incidental movement throughout the day instead, using approaches such as HIIPA and NEAT or perform movement snacks at your desk using products such as the Animal Moves Office Deck in bouts of seconds to a few minutes at a time.

HIIPA stands for high-intensity incidental physical activity, in other words, actions that have us moving around and getting our heart rate up while merely going about our day as usual.

NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis and is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports.

By thinking more about movement during the working day, rather than exercise alone. employees can take advantage of HIIPA and NEAT, save time and money.

#7. IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH AND MOOD


Exercise is a huge positive for physical health, decades of research has established it as one of the best ways to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stave off other ailments such as dementia - but that isn’t all. Exercise at work can result in improved mental health and mood, which can have a positive effect on all kinds of things, from your productivity to your home life. It helps to support the feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.

A 2015 study found that exercise may be able to reduce the onset of depressive symptoms. Moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity can be as effective as medication and therapy for many people with mild to moderate depression, and it certainly has the least side effects of any treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people with mild to moderate depression take part in at least 3 sessions per week, of around 60 minutes duration, over 10 to 14 weeks.

When moving at work try and have some fun with it too and be playful!

#8. IMPROVED CREATIVITY


A 2014 study by scientists at Stanford University showed that walking could significantly improve certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity. The researchers compared the creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat and found that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.

Things like convergent thinking, such as the ability to come up with solutions to a problem, and divergent thinking, which consists of conceiving open-ended, original ideas were shown to improve with increased walking time.

Steve Jobs regularly participated in walking meetings especially for initial meetings and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg does the same too.

The advice ’sit as little as possible’ has been around for over a century, even Charles Dickens regularly walked 20-30 miles a day as part of the creative process and many creatives today choose to move more to improve their way of thinking and to come up with new ideas.

“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”— Charles Dickens

#9. TEAM BUILDING


A team’s success isn’t based only on their expertise as individuals, but also on how they function together as a unit. Team building activities help to foster greater communication, understanding, and unity and work best when based on activities not directly associated with the usual work activities.

Exercise at work can be put into place as part of team-building events. Team building not only helps your team to learn more about one another and how they best work as a team, but can inspire others to lead more active lives.

Movement challenges such as employees competing based on “how many steps per day” can also be put into place to inspire and motivate employees and help them to get more exercise into their day as a side-benefit of a competitive work environment.

#10. REDUCES RISK OF COGNITIVE DECLINE


Over time, many people accept cognitive decline as a fact of life. However, this does not have to be the case. Memory can be maintained and even improved with regular exercise.

Aerobic exercise is associated with improvements in attention span and processing speed, executive function, and memory.

Regular exercise may increase the size of the hippocampus in the brain - this is the part that is responsible for learning and memory. Exercise can help to protect thinking skills and memory in everybody, too, not just senior citizens.
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